Ethiopian Wolf Adaptations

Updated November 21, 2016

The Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) is one of the rarest canines on Planet Earth, with probably fewer than 500 individuals remaining in the wild. Comparable in size to the North American coyote (Canis latrans), it has survived in the high mountain areas of Ethiopia by making special adaptations to its habitat, including what it eats and how it catches its prey.


Both the Ethiopian wolf and the coyote have a narrow, pointed muzzle. This adaptation helps them catch small rodents that hide in tight spaces.


Both the Ethiopian wolf and the coyote have standard canine dentition of incisors, canines, carnassials and molars, but the Ethiopian wolf's have become particularly small, sharp and widely spaced to make it easier for them to handle small prey.


The Ethiopian wolf is an omnivore, though its diet is 90 per cent rodents, especially giant mole rats and grass rats, as these small mammals are the most abundant items available to them in their restricted habitat. Because a wider range of prey is available to it, the coyote's omnivorous diet is more varied; it feeds on rabbits, fruit, insects and even larger animals, such as deer.


Ethiopian wolves hunt in the daytime, which is not unusual for wolves, including the coyote, but they hunt alone, while other wolves tend to be pack or group hunters. They are thought to have adopted this hunting strategy as an adaptation to the diurnal habits of their very small prey. Hunting alone may be an adaptation against food sharing, as pack hunters do.

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