Wetzel Biography

mammal_iconRalph M. Wetzel – Brief Biography (and list of publications)

Ralph Wetzel was born (1917), bred and educated in Illinois. He received his BS (1938) from Western Illinois University, and his MS (1939) and PhD (1949) from the University of Illinois. His dissertation, completed under the advisorship of S. Charles Kendeigh, was entitled “Analysis of Small Mammal Populations in the Deciduous Forest Biome”. In it he tested census methods and conducted analysis of changes in mammal assemblage with forest succession in tracts recovering from stripmining; he quantified seasonal fluctuations in rodent populations; and, he described variability in small mammal assemblage with respect to gradients of moisture and altitude at different scales, i.e. in the Smoky Mountains and in the Eastern United States. Upon completion of his doctoral work he was promptly hired by the University of Connecticut, initially as an instructor (at an annual salary of $3840) then in 1953 as an Assistant Professor. He was awarded tenure in 1954, became Associate Professor in 1959 and Professor in 1966. Also in 1966 he spent a summer as a Specialist for US AID at Osmania University in Hyderabad, India. Beginning in 1969 he regularly took academic year leave to study Venezuelan mammals as a Scientist in Residence at the US Museum of Natural History, and from 1973 to 1977 he was a Research Associate at the Smithsonian University. During this period he spent multiple summers in the field in the Chaco of Paraguay, supported at least in part by the National Geographic Society and the University of Connecticut Research Foundation. There he found alive a species of peccary that had been known only from pre-Hispanic archaeological deposits. How had living pigs that were familiar to the indigenous people of the region evaded (re)discovery? In the publication announcing the discovery (Wetzel et al. 1975), Wetzel remarked: “….we suspect recent peccary skulls often receive cursory examination. In periods of short funds for museum space, skulls as large as those of peccaries are usually viewed as a storage rather than an intellectual problem. Certainly most studies in the past two decades on the evolution and zoogeography of peccaries have been by paleontologists.” His collections are now databased and can be searched on VertNet.

Ralph Wetzel served as vice president of the CT Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also chaired a committee that considered whether the University of Connecticut ought to have a medical school. The recommendation of this committee is not known.

He retired in 1983 and served as adjunct curator of mammals at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, Gainesville. He passed away in 1984.


Wetzel, R. M. 1947. Additional records of Illinois mammals. Illinois Academy of Science Transactions 40: 228-233. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. and H. L. Gunderson. 1949. The lemming vole, Synaptomys borealis, in northern Minnesota. Journal of Mammalogy 30: 437. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. 1955. Speciation and dispersal of the southern bog lemming, Synaptomys cooperi (Baird). Journal of Mammalogy 36: 1-20. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. 1958. Mammalian succession on midwestern floodplains. Ecology 39: 262-271. Google scholar

Behnke, R. J. and R. M. Wetzel. 1960. A preliminary list of the fishes found in the fresh waters of Connecticut. Copeia 1960: 141-143. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. and L. R. Penner. 1962. Coydog in Connecticut. Journal of Mammalogy 43: 109-110.

Wetzel, R. M. and E. Shelar. 1964. The water shrew in southern Connecticut. Journal of Mammalogy 45: 311-311. Google scholar

Parke, W. W. and R. M. Wetzel. 1968. Bronchial diverticula in short-tailed shrews: Pulmonary adaptation to dust contaminated environment. Journal of Experimental Zoology 169: 197-203. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. and D. Kock. 1973. The identity of Bradypus variegatus Schinz (Mammalia, Edentata). Google scholar

Wetzel, R. and J. Lovett. 1974. A collection of mammals from the Chaco of Paraquay. Occasional papers, Biological science series. University of Connecticut 2.

Pine, R. H. and R. M. Wetzel. 1975. A New Subspecies of Pseudoryzomys wavrini (Mammalia: Rodentia: Muridae: Cricetinae) from Bolivia. Mammalia 39: 649-656. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. 1975. The species of Tamandua Gray (Edentata, Myrmecophagidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 88: 95-112. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M., R. E. Dubos, R. L. Martin and P. Myers. 1975. Catagonus, an” extinct” peccary, alive in Paraguay. Science 189: 379-381. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. and J. A. Crespo. 1976. Existencia de una tercera especie de pecari, Fam. Tayassuidae, Mammalia, en Argentina. Revista del Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales ‘Bernardino Rivadavia’ 12: 25–26. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. 1977. The chacoan peccary Catagonus wagneri (Rusconi). Bulletin of Carnegie Museum of Natural History 3. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. 1977. The extinction of peccaries and a new case of survival. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 288: 538-544. Google scholar

Myers, P. and R. M. Wetzel. 1979. New records of mammals from Paraguay. Journal of Mammalogy 60: 638-641. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. and E. Mondolfi. 1979. The subgenera and species of long-nosed armadillos, genus Dasypus L. Pages 43-47 in J. Eisenberg, editor. Vertebrate Ecology in the Northern Neotropics. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. 1980. Revision of the naked-tailed armadillos, genus Cabassous McMurtrie. Annals of Carnegie Museum of Natural History 49: 323–357. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. and F. de Ávila-Pires. 1980. Identification and distribution of the recent sloths of Brazil (Edentata). Revista Brasileira de Biologia 40: 831-836. pdf

Wetzel, R. M. 1982. Systematics, distribution, ecology, and conservation of South American edentates. Pages 345-375 in M. Mares and H. Genoways, editors. Mammalian Biology in South America. Special Publication Series of the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology. University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh. Google scholar

Myers, P. and R. M. Wetzel. 1983. Systematics and zoogeography of the bats of the Chaco Boreal. Miscellaneous Publications, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 165, Ann Arbor. pdf

Wetzel, R. 1983. Dasypus novemcinctus (Cusuco, Armadillo). Pages 465-467 in D. Janzen, editor. Costa Rican Natural History. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Google scholar

Jorge, W., R. C. Best and R. M. Wetzel. 1985. Chromosome studies on the silky anteater Cyclopes didactylus (Myrmecophagidae: Xenarthra, Edentata). Caryologia 38: 325-330. Google scholar

Redford, K. H. and R. M. Wetzel. 1985. Euphractus sexcinctus. Mammalian Species 252: 1-4. pdf

Wetzel, R. M. 1985. The identification and distribution of recent Xenarthra = Edentata. Pages 5-22 in G. G. Montgomery, editor. The Evolution and Ecology of Armadillos, Sloths, and Vermilinguas. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. Google scholar

Wetzel, R. M. 1985. Taxonomy and distribution of armadillos, Dasypodidae. Pages 23-48 in G. G. Montgomery, editor. The Evolution and Ecology of Armadillos, Sloths, and Vermilinguas. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. Google scholar

Mayer, J. J. and R. M. Wetzel. 1986. Catagonus wagneri. Mammalian Species 259: 1-5.

Mayer, J. J. and R. M. Wetzel. 1987. Tayassu pecari. Mammalian Species 293: 1-7.

Wetzel, R., A. Gardner, K. Redford, and J. Eisenberg. 2007. Order Cingulata Illiger, 1811. Pages 128-156 in A. Gardner, editor. Mammals of South America. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.