Wolves are dog-like animals, having long, bushy tails and thick, multi-layered fur. Their oily undercoats provide warmth, their long, coarse outercoats keep out moisture and their fur coloration provides camouflage. Wolves (Canis lupus) may be white, gray, brown or black, or a combination of these colors, depending on their environment. Animal species gradually develop camouflage colors through natural selection. Camouflage enables wolves to get close to unsuspecting prey.
Types of Camouflage
Animal camouflage is created by colorations that allow the creature to blend in with his environment, providing safety from predators and allowing the hunter to sneak up on his prey. Wolves may exhibit two types of camouflage -- concealing coloration and disruptive coloration. Concealing coloration is when an animal's body or fur is the same color as his background. Disruptive coloration occurs when stripes, spots or patterns are out-of-line with body contours, creating a visual disruption that makes it difficult to see the animal's outline.
Gray wolves are found in many habitats, including deserts, plains, and timberlands. They resemble German shepherds, having earth-toned colors that are a blend of buff, browns and grays. This enables them to blend in with the background colors of their environment. Many subspecies of gray wolves span the northern hemisphere.
Arctic wolves are found north of 70 degrees latitude, and live in snowy areas of Alaska and Canada. A subspecies of the gray wolf, the arctic wolf has white fur that blends with the ice and snow of his surroundings. Arctic wolves are the only wolves whose camouflage provides protection from predators. Located near the top of the food chain, most wolves have few predators. Arctic wolves are an exception, though -- they may be preyed upon by polar bears.
Mexican Gray Wolves
Mexican gray wolves are reddish-brown and gray. They live in Mexico, southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico and western Texas. Mexican gray wolves are mountain dwellers found in montane woodlands. Their reddish colorations are similar to the reddish-brown colors found in the southwestern desert mountains. The mottling of their colors is an example of disruptive coloration.
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