It’s not genetically identical to an Eastern coyote, but if it were allowed to breed freely of human intervention, that’s exactly what it would become. The only reason why they are more wolf-like is that they have a bit more wolf blood. Coyotes absorb wolf populations, and this particular animal was captured before it was fully absorbed.
Species can come about through hybridization. That’s true.
It’s very uncommon with large vertebrates, and what’s more, this hybrid happened with a group of organisms that are notorious for exchanging genes between species. No one says that the Eastern coyote is a new species, even though it’s essentially the same genetic make-up as the red wolf.
You can find things like European bison that have some genes from the aurochs/domestic cattle lineage, and the mule deer may be of hybrid from white-tailed and black-tailed deer.
But real hybrid species, like the European edible frog, which only exist as F1’s and then bred back to one of the parent species, are pretty uncommon.
I think people misunderstand that wolves and coyotes have a sort of fudge factor between their lineages. You can find coyotes with wolf DNA and wolves with coyote DNA. (Dog DNA counts as wolf DNA).
Hi, my name is Anna. This indeed does make a lot of sense! There’s even coyote’s breeding with dogs now, so many genetic weaving!
I own a red wolf hybrid. I’m trying to find others who own hybrids and also see them in a positive light. Even if you do not see them in a positive light, I’d love to discuss with you.
Yes, there are difference in training, and yes, it isn’t easy. It is such a wonderful and enjoyable experience. My hybrid is more than I could have asked for. I have lived in FL and SC and none of which require a permit for Wolf Hybrids. Things that you hear from most sites and media are purely judgmental and without firsthand-knowledge. If you own a wolf hybrid, or are looking for first-hand knowledge on owning one, I would love to hear from you!
My answer is never use mtDNA as evidence against nuclear DNA studies.
For whatever reason, the red wolf proponents have divined that certain ancient coyote-like mtDNA sequences are those of some kind of ancient wolf.
A much more parsimonious explanation is that they are mtDNA haplotypes that have died out in modern coyotes. Coyotes have lost a lot of mtDNA diversity, as have wolves. Mitochondrial DNA lineages have been lost and supplanted in both wolves and coyotes (and domestic dogs). Using those mtDNA lineages to make that claim is not intellectually honest.
Saying that those represent a unique species of wolf requires a lot more evidence than they have produced thus far.
It’s certainly true we do need nuclear DNA samples from those old wolves from Eastern North America.
Red wolves are derived from 14 founders. Though they were initially quite diverse– and were 20 years ago when their DNA was being examined nearly 20 years ago, which also is an argument against them being a unique species– they now are starting to show signs of an inbreeding depression. You don’t need a big sample size to generalize much about red wolves.
The VonHoldt paper that examined the red wolf with other wolves and coyotes asks a very simple question about those mtDNA sequences: Why is considering these mtDNA sequences to be those of an ancient wolf more parsimonious than considering them to be those of coyotes?
Unfortunately, it’s not really all that convincing.
It’s mostly complaining about sample sizes, which you can do for just about any study.
I’d actually like to see what Wayne and VonHoldt think.
You have to understand that this is the most complete analysis of wild animal genomes that has ever been attempted, and none of those researchers in that paper has produced anything that falsifies it.
The best they can do is quibble with sample sizes.
If they aren’t careful, they will paint themselves into saying that these “Eastern wolves” are coyote relatives and then someone will say “Why not make them conspecifics with the coyote?” And then we’re exactly where this winds up. The only quibble is when and how. Most of the really good evidence on red wolves or Eastern does not point to them being distinct species. They have both coyote and wolf characteristics. You would get something really unique if they were unique- just like what we got with the kouprey, which was once proposed as a hybrid. No one has found that in red or Eastern wolves, if we’re being intellectually honest.
Also if you think that wolves and coyotes never interbreed because it hasn’t been observed in the wild, then you have to concede that OJ is innocent because no one saw him do his hacking– the DNA was the main evidence.
From what I’ve seen from the red wolf and Eastern wolf studies, I see a lot of microsattelite studies that include large samples of individuals. Large samples of individuals that look at only a tiny part of the genome are not really good as ones that look at larger part of it, even if the sample size in terms of individuals is low.
Plus, with red wolves, inbreeding is getting to be a real problem. They might as well be a breed of dog. They started out really diverse (also evidence that they were never a unique species), and now they aren’t. You don’t need a large number of individuals when your genetic diversity is as low as red wolves are now.
BTW, Phillip and Shah, I have made a resolution that I’m not doing red wolf posts until December. I may do one then. I put too many up in recent months.