San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection[BRCC San Diego Natural History Museum: Herpetology Department]
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Field Guide

Canid Skulls

Canid skulls Here are skulls for four kinds of canids (members of the dog family).

What are they? (see answer at bottom)




Sizes and shapes of skulls, teeth and skeletal pieces help scientists distinguish the different kinds of mammals.
Kit fox skulls
Two Kit fox skulls show different degrees of cleaning.
Skeletons must be cleaned and preserved to maintain their research value over time. Read more about how to properly prepare specimens.
Partial skeleton of a gray fox This partial skeleton of a gray fox is the result of careful cleaning.
Gray fox and kit fox skull Look for the differences between these two fox skulls. The gray fox skull (left) is wider across at A than the kit fox. The temporal ridges (B) are U-shaped in the gray fox, but V-shaped in the kit fox.
Coyote and wolf skulls are longer than 160mm. Coyote skulls are rarely over 200mm while wolf skulls are usually more than 225mm. This skull is 185mm long.
Coyote skull    Coyote skull
Skulls from older animals often show extensive tooth wear. Which of these two lower jaws is from the older coyote?
Coyote lower jaw    Coyote lower jaw

FACT: Bear skulls increase in size with the age of the animal.
The original data tag is still attached to the male wolf skull, noting that the specimen was collected in 1925 in Oregon. The male skull is 252mm long while the female skull is 227mm long. Note the difference in the size of the sagital crest as well.
Wolf skull    wolf4
ANSWER: (top to bottom): Wolf (Canis lupus), Coyote (Canis latrans), Gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), Kit fox (Vulpes velox)