Wolves, a species of wonder and ecological importance
Although Wolves are seem by some as a species of wonder and ecological importance, they are also considered by some as a species to be feared due to myth and legend or a species to be destroyed as a pest and killer of livestock. Wolves are considered a keystone species, their presence in an ecosystem helps improve the number of species able to exist there.
Approximately 6 million years ago during the end of a period known as the ‘Miocene geological epoch’, the climate of the earth was beginning to cool before the periods of Pliocene and Pleistocene that would jointly become known as the ‘Ice age’. The forests and savannahs that had largely dominated the landscape became slowly replaced by steppe or grassland creating a challenging time where only those that could adapt to the environmental changes were able to survive. One of those species was the ancestor of modern wolves.
At some point towards the end of the Miocene the first species of the genus Canis arose as the common ancestor of all modern coyotes, wolves, and domestic dogs although it would still be a long period of time before modern wolves appeared.
Later during the Pliocene and Pleistocene periods around 5-2 million years ago, small woodland foxes in the southern part of North America began to grow larger. With the death of some larger species that could not survive the changes, the conditions became optimal for moderate sized, swift and intelligent Canids. Although there still remain ‘taxonomic uncertainties’, Canids are among the most taxonomically researched of all animals.