Episode 267 – Mane Wolf: Taxonomic Trouble

“…and today we’re talking about my manned man, but more on that later.”

Look! In the woods! It’s a wolf, it’s a fox! No, it’s the maned wolf and his mild-mannered alter ego, uh Phil. Keeping taxonomy researchers and podcast hosts on their toes is the name of the game sweetheart as this glamazon from the Amazon, this red bluster with a duster defies categorization on a molecular level. But life has shown us time and time again that you just gotta be weird in order to survive here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • They are lanky canines with proportionally long limbs and large ears.
  • They are colored similar to a red fox with brown ears and a light reddish or golden color on their backs.
  • Their signature manes are also dark brown.
  • Their tails are a blond color.

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new Measure Up intro!


  • 90 cm (35 in) at the shoulder. It’s only a little longer than it is tall.
  • How many maned wolves go into the diameter of the nebula that is being expelled by Wolf-Reyet 124?
  • Hint: A Wolf-Reyet is a type of star that is very hot and expels vast amounts of ionized helium among other elements, surrounding itself with a large nebula. These stars are defined by depletion of hydrogen, strong stellar winds, and unusual spectra. 
  • 63 quadrillion manned foxes. The nebula is six light years across.


  • 23 kg (51 lb)
  • How many maned wolves go into the weight of mambele, also called a hunga munga?
  • Hint: The mambele is a hybrid between a knife and an ax that was wielded by the Mangbetu and other tribes in central and southern Africa. 
  • 51 Mambele. Mambele vary widely but they are around a pound.

Fast Facts


The wolf lives in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay. They are rare in Uruguay. It enjoys open country, especially the beautiful tropical savanna of the Brazilian Cerrado. 

Side note: the Cerrado is a unique environment because it is a vast plains region in the tropics, which doesn’t happen that often. It has a ton of biodiversity. It has also been called the forgotten area of conservation or the ugly duckling of conservation because it competes with tropical rainforests. But pictures show a countryside straight out of the Altus Plateau. Looks like a tropical American West.

Maned wolves have long limbs to help in their preferred territory, which often includes grasslands and tall reeds. 

Maned wolves smell like marijuana. They are monogamous and they need the powerful scent to their urine to communicate their location to their mates. They meet up each spring to make more manned babies. The smell is so much like cannabis that police officers have been called to investigate illegal drugs that turned out to be lanky wolf wee.

Other than their refer rendezvous, they are solitary animals, unlike other canines. 

Their manes are thought to be used to scare off predators and rivals. When this jackal raises its hackles, it looks much larger. 

They have three vocalizations including a high pitched whine, a low growl, and a roar-bark which is used to communicate over long distances.

Thay have weird, seasonal sleep schedules. They may be diurnal during the dry season and nocturnal during the wet season. But their sleep schedules may vary based on region. 

Major Fact: Taxonomic Trouble

  • Looking at this guy, you’d say it was just a big fox crossed with a hyena maybe
  • The reality is that robin hood here isn’t a fox or a wolf or even a relative of the hyena. It’s in the subfamily caninae, so it’s related to dogs, wolves, and fox, but it’s actually in a tribe of dog and fox look-alikes
    • These include wild dogs, pseudo wolves, and zorros (fake foxes)
    • In fact, most of its closest relatives live in South America too
  • They’re actually the tallest wild canid in the world. Even the largest dogs only reach it’s average height of 35”, but the maned wolf has much smaller feet (3x smaller)
  • It doesn’t have the same vertical pupils that foxes have, but the real way they taxonomized the maned wolf is through electrophoretic studies of its DNA.
    • Many animals are taxonomized based on their skeletal structure and/or sexual isolation but zoologists had to get down to the Dinna to figure this lanky lad out.
  • But it’s diet also sets it apart from most other canids. 
    • It eats the usual things that would be on the menu for a solitary dog thing (mice, rabbits, lizards, birds, etc)
    • But a large portion of its diet is also made up of plants! Mainly the lobeira fruit, also called the wolf apple or “wolf plant” that comes from the nightshade family
  • They will also poop on leafcutter ant nests. The ants will then use their present to fertilize their fungus gardens (check out our leaf cutter ant episode for more on that). They will 3place the seeds outside their nest, where they’re more likely to germinate and grow a new tree with more poop fruit for the maned wolf to eat and the beautiful cycle begins anew.
    • So it’s technically symbiotic in a weird roundabout way
  • And yeah, that’s it. The maned wolf is a weird skinny, graceful, fake wolf fox that eats fruit, poops it on top of ants, and pees weed.

Ending: So snack on some fruit every once in a while, befuddle taxonomist as much as possible, and mark your territory with that sweet ganja like the maned wolf here in LDT.