This documentary is about coyotes that have red wolf features and possible ancestry in East Texas. He could have gone with that angle and made me giddy.
Instead, well, you’ll see:
So red wolves speak of the creator?
But wait a minute…
There is a huge debate about what a red wolf is. The best genetic study I’ve seen on them suggests they are recent hybrids between a relict population of Southeastern wolves Canis lupus wolves) and coyotes. What made the red wolf was not God Almighty but the extinction of the subtropical American wolf, which was almost always black in color.
Everything about Canis speaks of evolution. Not only do we have the hybrid red wolf, but we have hybrids between golden jackals and African wolves (Canis lupus lupaster) in sub-Saharan Africa. Eastern coyotes also have a lot of wolf and dog ancestry.
Hybrid zones and muddled areas between species are exactly what we expect if there were common descent among similar species.
They are distinct species but they simply haven’t diverged enough from each other to lose chemical interfertility.
The whole red wolf debate is actually about evolution from this perspective.
I lean toward it not being a distinct species at all but a really recent hybrid. I don’t think proponents of its unique species status have produced enough evidence to suggest that is not a hybrid. Hybridization is extremely common in Canis species, and this seems much more parsimonious than the claim that it’s an ancient North American wolf– a living fossil or whatever else.
Plus, the DNA says it’s not. And by that I mean large samples of DNA, not microsatellites or just mtDNA evidence, which is actually all they have.
But the hybridization of Canis in the East is producing a new form of coyote. This is a canid that comes in many more colors, thanks to the sprinkling dog in its ancestry and much more able to hunt large quarry thanks to the bit of wolf blood coursing through its veins.
These are the questions that make wolves and their kin interesting.
But unfortunately, we didn’t get that here.
Plus, everyone knows that the Bible hates wolves. It was written by ancient herdsmen, whose livestock suffered under wolf depredations. It’s not an ecology book in the least.
European settlers killed wolves on this continent under the auspices of ridding it of a Satanic force. Wolves did prey upon man in feudal Europe, and our ancestors came here with a strong fear of the lupine.
Chester Moore and I grew up in very similar environments, but I’m glad my parents and grandparents were interested in Darwin. My dad got me watching Sir David Attenborough documentaries.
I am glad that I am comfortable with nature as it is.
Every time I look at a dog’s eyes, I see evolution.
Every time I look at a flying bird, I see a dinosaur.
I see every reason to accept the modern Neo-Darwininian synthesis. It’s all around me.
I don’t see any reason why I should accept the Bible– or any holy book– as true.
But that’s just me.
Read Full Post »