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The skull of Canis lupus

An examination of the features of the wolf skull.

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The maxillary (cranial) tooth arrangement consists of six incisors, two canine teeth, eight premolars, and four molars.  In the mandible (lower jaw) there are six incisors, two canines, eight premolars, and six molars.

Thus, the wolf's dental formula is shown as:

i3 - c1 - p4 - m2
i3 - c1 - p4 - m3

bringing the total number of teeth to 42.

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Skull of a large male wolf from Siberia.
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skull palate - Image  C. Campbell
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View of the palate.
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At the front of the jaw are found the incisors (1).   These teeth are mainly used to cut meat.  Behind them are the canines (2), which function to hold prey.  In Canis lupus, the canine teeth can reach 2 inches in length.  The large, specialized premolars known as the carnassials (3), are designed for the purpose of shearing and slicing flesh.  Beyond the carnassials lie the the last teeth in the series, the molars (4).
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In the family Canidae, large molars have been retained, making a thorough crushing of food possible.  Being more opportunistic in feeding habits than many other families of carnivores, the canid's possession of molars allows for a wide variety of both animal and plant material to be eaten.
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DIAGRAMS OF THE WOLF DENTITION
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Here are some diagrams which I have prepared of the dentiton of Canis lupus.  The meanings of the abbreviations are:

    i - incisor

    C - canine

    P - premolar

    M - molar
 

Maxilla Mandible

 
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grey wolf skull - Siberia - Image  C. Campbell
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Other anatomical features of the wolf's skull which are of great importance to its hunting abilities include the zygomatic arches (1), and the sagittal crest (2).  Both of these structures serve as areas of attachment for the powerful jaw muscles.
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