Thursday, July 28, 2016

Wolf Species Are Part Coyote

Gray wolves, pushed to near extinction in the 1960s, have roamed North America alongside two other wolf species—the red wolf in the southeastern U.S. and the Eastern wolf in the area surrounding the Great Lakes. But an analysis of their genomes has revealed a surprise: they are all actually one type of wolf, with varying amounts of coyote DNA, a study reported this week (July 27) in Science Advances. “Wolf biologists and others have been waiting for this sort of definitive analysis for years,” says Susan Haig, a wildlife ecologist at the US Geological Survey in Corvallis, Oregon, told Science. Robert Wayne, a geneticist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues analyzed the genomes of 12 gray wolves, six Eastern wolves, three red wolves, and three coyotes, plus those of dogs and wolves from Asia, The New York Times reported. The team found a surprising amount of coyote DNA in purported wolves: the Eastern wolf was about 25 percent to 50 percent coyote, and the red wolf, 75 percent coyote.  Even the gray wolf itself wasn’t purebred—it had traces of coyote genes, Science News reported. The analysis also revealed that coyotes and the gray wolf diverged far more recently than experts previously believed—around 50,000 years ago...more

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