The Aardwolf vs. Wolf Skull Comparison

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The Variability in Skulls: Aardwolf vs. Wolf

The present paper presents an analysis of the Aardwolf (Proteles cristala) vs. Wolf (Canis lupus) comparison of their skulls. The variability in the sizes and shapes of the skulls of either of the two species as well as among other wild cats is substantial as compared to other mammalian species. Several parameters have been employed for purposes of characterizing the shapes of the skulls between the two species. The skull indices and ratios are an effective approach towards the separation and refining of the morphological types (Sanfilippo et al., 2009).

Different Skull Formations in Canis Skulls

According to Drake, & Klingenberg, (2010), there are three phenotypically different skull formations in the canis skulls. These include round-shaped, triangular, and cuneiform. For the wolf, three skulls types are evident: the dolichocephalic, brachycephalic, and mesaticephalic (O'Neill et al., 2015). Morphometric measurements help in the identification and analysis of the skull morphology of the two species. Besides, it helps in determining the causes of the present deformations (Sanfilippo et al., 2009).

Aardwolf Skull Characteristics

The Aardwolf skull has a large quantity of turbinate bones unlike the Canis lupus. Due to the large quantity of bones, the aardwolf has a larger space for the moist epithelium located of the olfactory bulb. The nose of the aardwolf consists of nine olfactory bulbs, which is more than that of the Canis lupus. Because Proteles Cristala is usually keen on smell, it explains the presence of the large quantity of bulbs in the nose backed up by the development of the brain, where the olfactory lobe is well developed. The snout of the Proteles Cristala is similar to that of the elongated pig snout. The mouth is smaller and tubular unlike that of the Canis lupus. The shape of the mouth is effective for the purpose of feeding on ants and termites unlike that of the Canis lupus, used for crushing bones and tearing flesh. The eyes of the Proteles Cristala are small compared to the size of its head. The teeth of Proteles Cristala have no enamel coating. The species has conventional incisors and canines positioned at the front of the jaw.

Skull Characteristics of Canis Lupus

The skull of the Canis lupus has a length of 230-290 mm accompanied by a zygomatic width of 120-150 mm. In addition, the wolf skull has an elongated rostrum featuring largely stretching zygomata with an ossified braincase having a sagittal crest. The skull of this mammal is of equivalent size and is easily distinguished by the presence of the massive, steeply rising frontal region. This region is present due to the higher orbital angle and its smaller teeth. The design and structure of Canis lupus teeth take the form of that which tears and cuts through large chunks of meat. Moreover, the design of the teeth shows how the wolf can crush and crack bone. The normal dental formula for the Canis lupus is I 3/3, C 1/1, P 4/4, M 2/3. The incisors are relatively small while the canines are large, having a visible dorsoventral length of approximately 26 mm. The carnassials of the wolf are formed by the fourth upper premolar and the first lower molar. The dentition of the wolf shows that the molars have a flattened or chewing surface.

Distinctive Features of Aardwolf Skull

The most explicit features of the skull for the Aardwolf (Proteles cristala) include the extraordinary reduction of the cheek teeth. The Proteles cristala skull features an extremely broad and parallel-sided plate spreading beyond the upper molars. Examining the whole structure of the skull, it is a confirmation of the animal's exclusive diet of termites (Kruuk & Sands, 1972). The wide-ranging palate accommodates a large, spatulate tongue responsible for licking termites off the soil surface. An analysis of the skulls reveals the gap of the tongue that shows it is covered with large, conical papillae and large submaxillary glands responsible for the production of copious amounts of sticky saliva (Richardson 1985). The Aardwolf has well-developed sight, hearing, and smell. The mammal has large eyes and ears. The internal auditory bulla is well-developed (Flower, 1869). Despite the many references to the contrary, Proteles cristala has a disproportionately strong jaw and skull. This is evident from the broad and heavily-built zygomatic arches, a feature that suggests the probability of a well-developed or structured masseter muscles and powerful jaw action. All these features and designs are present in the Aardwolf, probably for fighting purposes. The reason for the resilient features and characteristics for fighting is that aardwolves have violent territorial disputes. In addition, various researchers have conducted research on the same documenting that aardwolves frequently chase jackals from their breeding dens. Proteles cristala has canines useful for fighting which is reflected in their wear, for in old animals they appear in a broken shape to rounded stumps. Aardwolves have a permanent dentition of the formula I 3/3, c 1/1, and m 3-4/2-4. However, the number of cheek teeth may reduce further.

Canis Lupus: Feeding Habits and Skull Features

In the family of Canis lupus, large molars have been retained, which makes it possible for thorough crushing of foods. The presence of molars in Canis lupus shows the feeding habits as compared to other families of carnivores. The molars allow for the species to have a wide variety of both animal and plant material for food. Other prevalent features and characteristics of the wolf's skull that help in its hunting abilities include the zygomatic arches and the sagittal crest. These two features act as spaces that allow for the attachment of powerful jaw muscles. The sagittal crest is a ridge that extends along the dorsal midline of the braincase. Aardwolf have massive jaws accompanied by large premolars and molars used for crushing bones. The cheek teeth of the aardwolves have a small size compared to the wolf. In aardwolves unlike the Canis lupus, the canines are sharp and fairly large. For the Aardwolf (Proteles cristala), the incisors are unspecialized, expect for the third incisor on both sides which are bigger than the others. The skulls lack alishenoid canals, while the auditory bullae are divided like those of other feloids.


Drake, A.G. and Klingenberg, C.P., 2010. Large-scale diversification of skull shape in domestic dogs: disparity and modularity. The American Naturalist, 175(3), pp.289-301.

Flower, W.H., 1869. On the value of the characters of the base of the cranium in the classification of the order Carnivora, and on the systematic position of Bassaris and other disputed forms. Journal of Zoology, 37(1), pp.4-37.

Kruuk, H. and Sands, W.A., 1972. The aardwolf (Proteles cristatm Sparrman) 1783 as predator of termites. African Journal of Ecology, 10(3), pp.211-227.

O’Neill, D.G., Jackson, C., Guy, J.H., Church, D.B., McGreevy, P.D., Thomson, P.C. and Brodbelt, D.C., 2015. Epidemiological associations between brachycephaly and upper respiratory tract disorders in dogs attending veterinary practices in England. Canine genetics and epidemiology, 2(1), p.10.

Richardson, P.R.K. and Bearder, S.K., 1984. The aardwolf. The encyclopaedia of mammals, 1, pp.158-159.

Sanfilippo, P.G., Cardini, A., Hewitt, A.W., Crowston, J.G. and Mackey, D.A., 2009. Optic disc morphology-Rethinking shape. Progress in retinal and eye research, 28(4), pp.227-248.

October 05, 2023



Biology Zoology

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