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What's in a Name?
you are an Inupiat native living in northwest Alaska, then the name
for Dall sheep is easy. Around the Northwest Arctic, there are two
Inupiat dialects. The coastal Inupiat dialect refer to Dall sheep
as Imnaiq. The Kobuk dialect calls the Ipnaiq.
sheep also have a scientific name: Ovis dalli dalli. The
scientific name provides information about the physical and genetic
relationship a plant or animal has to all other plants and animals.
is the science of classifying plants and animals into groups with
similar features. The classification system we use today was developed
by Linneaus and is a hierarchical system with organisms are placed
into large groups, and then each large group is split into smaller
groups, and those are split again until the group has only one type
of animal a species or subspecies.
sheep have been classified as follows:
phylogenetic tree, above, gives us a lot of information about Dall
The Kingdom Animalia distinguishes a sheep from a plant, virus,
protozoa, fungus, and one-celled bacteria. Dall sheep are animals.
Chordata means that the Dall sheep has a spinal cord. Because it
is in the subphylum Vertebrata, it is specifically grouped with
fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and other mammals that all have
a spine of bone or cartilage.
sheep are in a special class called Mammalia. Like all mammals,
this means they have mammary glands, sweat glands, hair, a four-chambered
heart, a muscular diaphragm, two functional ovaries, and
order Artiodactyla is represented by hoofed animals (also called
"ungulates") that have paraxonic feet. These animals
have an even number of toes and the plane of symmetry passes between
digits three and four. Having two hooves on each foot (plus 2 regressed
digits) is a characteristic of Artiodactyla.
family Bovidae, tells us that the Dall sheep is specialized and
has horns like musk oxen and goats and not antlers
like moose and deer. Bovid horns are unbranched and curving horns.
Ovis means that Dall sheep are a type of sheep. Wild sheep fall
into two groups, thinhorn and bighorn. Dall sheep are one of the
two subspecies in the thinhorn group. The other subspecies, Stone
sheep, look similar to Dall sheep but occur in a small area of the
Yukon and northern British Columbia. At present, Dall sheep are
found throughout the mountain ranges of Alaska as well as the Yukon,
Northwest Territories, northwestern British Columbia (see map below).
Very specific traits like a short tail, no "beard" on
the chin, and horns that are larger than 6 inches at the base are
characteristic of animals in the genus Ovis.
sheep are the only subspecies of North American wild sheep found
in northwestern Alaska. Wild sheep descended from mammals that evolved
during the Pleistocene Epoch. It is thought that they arrived in
North America by crossing the Bering Land Bridge about 100,000 years
the Species and Subspecies portion dalli dalli, refer to
William Healey Dall (1845 - 1927), an American naturalist who studied
these sheep. Often the scientific name refers to a person
that observed or first identified the unique animal. Species classification
further identifies our Dall sheep as a unique animal based on its
habitat, genetics and special characteristics.