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DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America

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DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America

Postby Juska » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:11 am

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/scien ... .html?_r=0
Published July 27, 2016

The first large study of North American wolf genomes has found that there is only one species on the continent: the gray wolf. Two other purported species, the Eastern wolf and the red wolf, are mixes of gray wolf and coyote DNA, the scientists behind the study concluded.

The finding, announced Wednesday, highlights the shortcomings of laws intended to protect endangered species, as such laws lag far behind scientific research into the evolution of species.

The gray wolf and red wolf were listed as endangered in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s and remain protected today, to the periodic consternation of ranchers and agricultural interests.

In 2013, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service recognized the Eastern wolf as a separate species, which led officials to recommend delisting the gray wolf. Conservationists won a lawsuit that forced the agency to abandon the plan.

The new finding sharpens a scientific question at the heart of that debate: How should the Endangered Species Act address threatened animals that are hybrids?

“What’s very exciting about this paper is that it’s using extremely powerful tools to address longstanding, challenging questions in conservation,” said Ryan Kovach, a research wildlife biologist at the United States Geological Survey who was not involved in the new study.

When Europeans arrived in North America, wolves roamed much of the continent. Farmers and ranchers almost entirely eradicated them from what is now the United States.

Over the past four decades, conservation efforts have helped a few wolf populations recover in the Rocky Mountains and around the Great Lakes. In 2015, the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated there were 5,505 wolves in the continental United States.

Those efforts were possible because of the Endangered Species Act, established in 1973. The law led to a recovery program for a species known as the red wolf, or Canis rufus, believed to have originally lived in the Southeast. The last red wolves were removed from the wild in 1980, and captive-bred animals were released into the wild beginning in 1987.

The gray wolf, or Canis lupus, once ranged from the Rockies to New England. In 1978, the Fish and Wildlife Service declared it to be threatened in the lower 48 states.

In 2000, some scientists began to argue that the eastern population of gray wolves was in fact a separate species, which they called Canis lycaon. The Fish and Wildlife Service recognized that species in 2013, and officials argued that the gray wolf, now deemed to be limited to the western United States, was doing well enough to be taken off the list.

The new analysis, published in the journal Science Advances, paints a profoundly different portrait of the American wolf.

Bridgett M. vonHoldt of Princeton University and her colleagues sequenced the genomes of 12 gray wolves, six Eastern wolves, three red wolves and three coyotes, as well as the genomes of dogs and wolves from Asia.

Dr. vonHoldt and her colleagues found no evidence that red wolves or Eastern wolves belonged to distinct lineages of their own. Instead, they seem to be populations of gray wolves, sharing many of the same genes.

What really sets Eastern wolves and red wolves apart, the researchers found, is a large amount of coyote DNA in their genomes.

The new study revealed that coyotes and North American wolves shared a remarkably recent common ancestor. Scientists had previously estimated their ancestor lived a million years ago, but the new study put the figure at just 50,000 years ago.

“I could not have put money on it being so recent,” Dr. vonHoldt said.

That ancestor gave rise to two species — the predecessor of today’s gray wolves and that of today’s coyotes — somewhere in Eurasia. Dr. vonHoldt said that the two species then migrated into North America.

There, coyotes evolved into small predators that specialize in taking down smaller prey. Wolves took a different path, relying on their larger size and great speed to prey on moose and other big mammals.

As wolves were killed off in the East, coyotes spread from the Midwestern prairies over the past two centuries to take their place. Surviving wolves interbred with the coyotes, producing hybrid offspring.

Dr. vonHoldt and her colleagues found that the genomes of Eastern wolves that lived in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario were half gray wolf and half coyote. Red wolves are even more mixed: Their genomes are 75 percent coyote and only 25 percent wolf.

Some wolf experts were startled by the finding and said it would require further support.

Linda Y. Rutledge, an expert on Eastern wolves, questioned whether the new study was sufficient to reject them as a separate species. Two Algonquin wolves that were part of the new study, she said, lived during a period when hybridization between coyotes and wolves was unusually common.

“They’re potentially not representative at all,” she said.

Despite her concerns, Dr. Rutledge joined Dr. vonHoldt’s lab as a research associate last year to participate in a new study on wolves, called the Canine Ancestry Project. The researchers are pooling their samples of DNA to study up to 100 wolves, coyotes and dogs from every state in the continental United States, as well as in Canadian provinces.

Robert K. Wayne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who helped conduct the new study, said the mix of coyote and wolf DNA highlighted the need for a more sophisticated approach to conserving biological diversity.

Red and Eastern wolves still deserve protection despite their high level of coyote DNA, Dr. Wayne said, because they still carry the DNA of an endangered species: gray wolves.

With the proper management of the species’ habitat, he added, natural selection could help the wolf genes become more common again.

Yet the Endangered Species Act offers no guidance about what to do with hybrid animals.

“We put things in baskets, but it doesn’t work that way in nature,” Dr. Wayne said. “We need to have a hybrid policy.”

Even if they are not pure wolves, Dr. Rutledge said, hybrid animals still play a crucial role in eastern forests as top predators. “If it can kill deer in eastern landscapes, it’s worth saving,” she said.

Wolves are not the only animals challenging traditional taxonomy. Many related species are trading genes through hybridization, either naturally or because of human activity.

“It’s a fairly broad swath of diversity,” Dr. Kovach said. “And more concerning, it’s increasing.”
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Re: DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America

Postby caninesrock » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:05 pm

I'm not buying it. There' s several things wrong with their results.

First, they only studied DNA of 12 gray wolves, 6 Eastern wolves, 3 red wolves and 3 coyotes. That's an extremely small amount of animals total and a particularly small amount of red wolves and coyotes and not much bigger for Eastern Wolves. The gray wolf sample size is better, but still a relatively small amount. I would think they would have to study atleast 20 of each species minimum to get any kind of accurate results.

Secondly, all species in the genus Canis, except for the black-backed jackal and side-striped jackal, are closely related enough that they can interbreed and produce entirely fertile offspring, which makes the genus Canis particularly muddy. Since the general definition of a species is " A species is often defined as a group of individuals that actually or potentially interbreed in nature. In this sense, a species is the biggest gene pool possible under natural conditions."

Source: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_41

By that definition, all members of the genus Canis (except for the side-striped and black-backed jackal), should be the same species. So, a gray wolf,a red wolf, an Ethiopian wolf, a coyote, and a golden jackal, should all be considered the same species since unlike many other hybrids (such as ligers, mules, the arctic fox-red fox hybrids created by fur farms, lower generation bengal cats such as f1s, etc.), crosses of these species can all give birth to entirely fertile and healthy offspring and barring the golden jackal and Ethiopian Wolf, all have naturally hybridized in nature without man's interference. The golden jackal has been known to occasionally hybridize with domestic dogs, which are a subspecies of the gray wolf, but hasn't naturally hybridized with any other Canis member, mostly because except for the Ethiopian Wolf, the rest all live all on another continent. Technically, the black-backed and side-striped jackals ,which also live in Africa, are in the genus Canis, but they are very distantly related to other members of the Canis famlily, can't interbred with them (though black-backed and side-stripped could theoretically breed with each other, but no hybrids are known) , and are really only kept in the genus do to morphological similarities. The Ethiopian Wolf has been known to hybridize with domestic dogs as well, which is a threat to their conservation, but I don't recall hearing about them hybridizing with golden jackals. I"m not really sure why. Though even the golden jackals in African are being proposed as a new species distinct from the ones in Eurasia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_golden_wolf
vs
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_jackal

And even if the golden jackal subspecies in Africa aren't classed as their own species, the Egyptian Jackal has been proposed as a subspecies of gray wolf rather than golden jackal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_wolf

More about Canis hybrids https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canid_hybrid

Third, its is known that when species numbers get low, they tend to start interbreeding with closely related species. A modern example of these is with polar bears and grizzlies, known as a grolar bear.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly%E ... ear_hybrid

While in the case of the polar bears, its because of global warming, it can also happen with animals that have been overhunted by humans.

In the early 1900s, North American wolves of all species and subspecies were nearly driven to extinction. Even today, some of the more endangered wolf subspecies, like the critically endangered Mexican Wolf, have been known to hybridize with coyotes and one supposed chupacabra that was killed when dna tested turned out to be a Mexican Gray-Coyote hybrid. When the red wolf was added to the Endangered Species Act in the 1960s, the government captured hundreds of these animals. Only 14 of these animals were determined to be pure red wolves. The rest were hybrids with coyotes. At this point, red wolves, like gray wolves, had been heavily persecuted and were on the verge of extinction, which less than a 1,000 of even the red wolf-coyote hybrids left. It would make sense that such a critically endangered animal would have such extensive hybridization with another species due to lack of suitable mates of their own species. I feel to really get an accurate portrayal of the red wolf's status, they should exam dna from museum specimens of red wolves from times when they were common before they were nearly driven to extinction and forced to breed with coyotes. Same with the Eastern Wolves.

Then, lastily, more a personal bias of mine, than science based, but I always thought that naturally occurring hybridization that results in new species should be considered a form of evolution and that science shouldn't consider everything with the cut-and-dry approach of its "pure" so its distinct species or its mix of two other species, so therefore, its not a real species and just a hybrid. Obviously, I don't think man-made hybrids like ligers of mules should be given species status, but I believe that, even if it is true that Eastern Wolves, Red Wolves, and Eastern Coyotes/Coywolves, did originally evolve from the mixing of gray wolves with coyotes, they should still be considered their own species. Why? Because there are many of these animals that fit the same uniform appearance within each species, they usually prefer to breed among themselves rather than with one of their parent species (though they will occasionally breed with western coyotes or gray wolves), and all offspring they produce look identical just like all gray wolves and all coyotes like identical. In a true hybrid like a mule, you may have one animal that looks mostly like a horse and one that looks mostly like a donkey, but both are considered mules, so no uniform appearance, mules are usually not fertile, and even if they are, they usually can only be bred back to one of the parent species and not to another mule. I'm on the fence about rarely occuring wild hybrids like the grolar bear though. These animals are not common at all and certainly not enough of them exist to propose species rather than hybrid status.


I hope no one takes this study seriously. It could be very dangerous for the red wolf. Ranchers, hunters, and other anti-wolf people have been trying to argue for years that the red wolf is not a distinct species, just for the sole purpose of getting them taken of the endangered species list so that they'll be allowed to shoot them, no doubt into extinction,being there already are only around 200 red wolves total in the entire world.

Maybe I'm just bias because I like canids so much, but in my opinion, there's plenty of room for more than one species of wolf on the continent and all deserve protection.

P.S. I got home late from work tonight and I have to go in early tomorrow, so I haven't had time to add all my sources and most of the ones I've added are from wiki, but the things on wiki, I have seen on legitimate websites such as National Geographic as well. I'm just in a rush to finish this post. If anyone wants links to the studies I mentioned, I can google to try and find the sites where I read the info again and put links in my next post tomorrow.
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Re: DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America

Postby TamanduaGirl » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:18 pm

That was my thinking on it even if all red wolves are "hybrids" that makes a new species. A rare hybrid here or there is just that but if you have a large population of "hybrids" now living and interbreeding with each other, that makes for a new species.
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Re: DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America

Postby Juska » Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:22 am

Considering this was a study of genome sequences, not a DNA profile, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the entire study. The human genome size (number of base pairs) is 3,200,000,000 or 3.2Gb and the domestic dog's is 2.41 Gb. That's a lot to sort through.

"Whole genome sequencing should not be confused with DNA profiling, which only determines the likelihood that genetic material came from a particular individual or group, and does not contain additional information on genetic relationships, origin or susceptibility to specific diseases.[2]" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole_genome_sequencing

You literally said " When the red wolf was added to the Endangered Species Act in the 1960s (it was actually enacted in 1973), the government captured hundreds of these animals. Only 14 of these animals were determined to be pure red wolves. The rest were hybrids with coyotes. At this point, red wolves, like gray wolves, had been heavily persecuted and were on the verge of extinction, which less than a 1,000 of even the red wolf-coyote hybrids left. It would make sense that such a critically endangered animal would have such extensive hybridization with another species due to lack of suitable mates of their own species."

So how do you not believe the study's findings that red wolves are mostly or all mixed species? Don't you think it's plausible that in the past 40 years, the gene pool and breeding availability of red wolves would have gotten even smaller and thus more interbreeding could have occurred, especially considering the last red wolves were removed from the wild not too long ago? Also, do you have evidence that the technology in the 1970's was better or even close to as accurate as what we have now, to determine the purity of an animal's species? I doubt it. How did they determine some were "pure" and some were "hybrids"? They didn't even have DNA technology back then.

It also doesn't really affect their conservation status as they're still mixed with an endangered species. The study could be said to conclude that all red wolves and eastern wolves "evolved" from gray wolves, are very few in number and therefore are still an endangered species. They also didn't say that all red and eastern wolves ARE gray wolves so I don't think it's being debated that they're not a separate species. They're saying that the other two are not pure wolves like the gray wolf, thus making the gray wolf the only "true" wolf on the continent. One of the scientists "questioned whether the new study was sufficient to reject them as a separate species", not if it definitively made them the same species as the gray wolf. You don't classify a wolfdog as a wolf just because it has wolf DNA in it, so why would they call a wolf/coyote mix a wolf?
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Re: DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America

Postby caninesrock » Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:31 pm

Considering this was a study of genome sequences, not a DNA profile, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the entire study. The human genome size (number of base pairs) is 3,200,000,000 or 3.2Gb and the domestic dog's is 2.41 Gb. That's a lot to sort through.

"Whole genome sequencing should not be confused with DNA profiling, which only determines the likelihood that genetic material came from a particular individual or group, and does not contain additional information on genetic relationships, origin or susceptibility to specific diseases.[2]" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole_genome_sequencing

But its still a super small sample size and still uses an uneven amount of species. For example, if you're going to use 12 gray wolves, then why not also take samples from 12 red wolves, 12 coyotes, and 12 Eastern wolves rather than taking random amounts from each species?


You literally said " When the red wolf was added to the Endangered Species Act in the 1960s (it was actually enacted in 1973), the government captured hundreds of these animals. Only 14 of these animals were determined to be pure red wolves. The rest were hybrids with coyotes. At this point, red wolves, like gray wolves, had been heavily persecuted and were on the verge of extinction, which less than a 1,000 of even the red wolf-coyote hybrids left. It would make sense that such a critically endangered animal would have such extensive hybridization with another species due to lack of suitable mates of their own species."

So how do you not believe the study's findings that red wolves are mostly or all mixed species? Don't you think it's plausible that in the past 40 years, the gene pool and breeding availability of red wolves would have gotten even smaller and thus more interbreeding could have occurred, especially considering the last red wolves were removed from the wild not too long ago?

Maybe I worded myself wrong, but I am not arguing that modern red wolves don't have a significant amount of coyote in them. What I am arguing against is that the article is proposing that the red wolf was never a distinct species and are merely gray wolf-coyote hybrids. I believe that the historicall red wolves were a distinct species, but that most of the modern ones have significantly interbred with coyotes. In fact, one of the major threats to their conservation is the fact that they interbreed with coyotes. So, yes, I do believe that some red wolves are coyote hybrids to an extent today, but I don't buy that they were always merely gray wolf-coyote hybrids. I think the modern ones are actually a hybrid between the true red wolf species (which is possibly extinct as far as purebreds of the species go) and coyotes.

Also, do you have evidence that the technology in the 1970's was better or even close to as accurate as what we have now, to determine the purity of an animal's species? I doubt it. How did they determine some were "pure" and some were "hybrids"? They didn't even have DNA technology back then.

I have no idea how they determined it since I wasn't even born yet in the 1970s. I'm sure if I did enough searching online I could probably find some sort of paper about what they used to determine it, but until then, I really can't answer that question. I am assuming maybe purely based on morphological and behavioral characteristics since that's pretty much all they had back then, but don't really don't know. :shrug:

All I know is that they captured many animals but only used 14 of those animals in the breeding program because those were the only ones they determined to be "pure" at the time. I'm not even sure what they did with the non-pure animals and I'm not sure I want to know because I suspect they most likely euthanized them since they weren't pure and would've been a threat to conservation. And they captured hundreds of these animals, so if my suspicions are right, that would mean that they euthanized hundreds of these hybrid wolves just for not being pure.

It also doesn't really affect their conservation status as they're still mixed with an endangered species. The study could be said to conclude that all red wolves and eastern wolves "evolved" from gray wolves, are very few in number and therefore are still an endangered species.

If the endangered species you're referring to is the gray wolf, that doesn't guarantee them protection. The Eastern Coyote/Coywolf is a known wolf-coyote hybrid and has no legal protection. They can be hunted just like the pure western coyotes despite have genes of the endangered gray wolf.

They also didn't say that all red and eastern wolves ARE gray wolves so I don't think it's being debated that they're not a separate species. They're saying that the other two are not pure wolves like the gray wolf, thus making the gray wolf the only "true" wolf on the continent. One of the scientists "questioned whether the new study was sufficient to reject them as a separate species", not if it definitively made them the same species as the gray wolf. You don't classify a wolfdog as a wolf just because it has wolf DNA in it, so why would they call a wolf/coyote mix a wolf?

They are saying something much worse. If they were saying they were gray wolves, that would be much better actually because they could still be legally protected. But since they are saying that they aren't a real species or subspecies and that they are only hybrids, hybrids get no legal protection. And technically, gray wolves and dogs are the same species. It depends on the content though. I'm sure the wolfdog community doesn't like this, but some times I automatically refer to and think of high content wolfdogs as simply just wolves because they look and act just like pure wolves. Now, a low-content or mid-content I would never refer to as a wolf even though technically all dogs are a subspecies of wolf. Same as how I would never call a German Shepherd or Maltese a wolf. Now, Ethiopian Wolves and domestic dogs could be considered true hybrids since separate species. If the said hybrid had more Ethiopian Wolf, I would still consider it an Ethiopian Wolf, just not a pure one. If it had more dog than Ethiopian wolf, I would consider it a hybrid dog.

Also, there are many animals that are called what they are not. The golden jackal is called a jackal but is more closely related to wolves and coyotes than to either of the two true jackals species (Black-backed and Side-striped Jackals). Many of the South American canids are referred to as foxes even though they aren't at all closely related to true foxes. Also, the bat-eared fox, Gray Fox, and Island Gray Foxes, are other false "fox" species. The extinct Falkland Islands Wolf was actually more closely related to the Maned Wolf than true wolves. And speaking of the Maned Wolf, it is also not a true wolf as its very distantly related to the genus Canis. Ethiopian Wolves have been referred to as many names including Simien Jackal (when they are actually more closely related to wolves and coyotes than to either of the two species of true jackals) and Simien Fox (when they are even more distantly related to foxes than they are to either of the two true jackals).

Also, there are even animals referred to by families that they aren't in at all. For example, in some European countries, the raccoon dog is referred to as an Asiatic Raccoon, but they are canines and not at all related to raccoons. The Aardwolf has wolf in its name, but is not a wolf, but actually part of the hyena family. The thylacine which was sometimes called the Tasmanian or Tassie Tiger and sometimes called the Tasmanian wolf, was a dog-like marsupial that was neither a canine nor feline of any sort. And mudpuppies and waterdogs are amphibians, not even mammals like true dogs.

And technically, coyotes are very closely related to wolves and one of their old common names was Prairie Wolf. So, one could argue that the coyote is actually a wolf species as well.

Anyways, the parts of the article that concern me are:

Two other purported species, the Eastern wolf and the red wolf, are mixes of gray wolf and coyote DNA, the scientists behind the study concluded.

The finding, announced Wednesday, highlights the shortcomings of laws intended to protect endangered species, as such laws lag far behind scientific research into the evolution of species.


The new finding sharpens a scientific question at the heart of that debate: How should the Endangered Species Act address threatened animals that are hybrids?



Dr. vonHoldt and her colleagues found no evidence that red wolves or Eastern wolves belonged to distinct lineages of their own. Instead, they seem to be populations of gray wolves, sharing many of the same genes.

What really sets Eastern wolves and red wolves apart, the researchers found, is a large amount of coyote DNA in their genomes.


As wolves were killed off in the East, coyotes spread from the Midwestern prairies over the past two centuries to take their place. Surviving wolves interbred with the coyotes, producing hybrid offspring.

Dr. vonHoldt and her colleagues found that the genomes of Eastern wolves that lived in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario were half gray wolf and half coyote. Red wolves are even more mixed: Their genomes are 75 percent coyote and only 25 percent wolf.


Linda Y. Rutledge, an expert on Eastern wolves, questioned whether the new study was sufficient to reject them as a separate species. Two Algonquin wolves that were part of the new study, she said, lived during a period when hybridization between coyotes and wolves was unusually common.


Yet the Endangered Species Act offers no guidance about what to do with hybrid animals.

So, the study is saying that they are not real species, but merely hybrids. The article also mentions that ESA offers no protection to hybrids.

Also, here is an F1 Gray Wolf-Coyote Hybrid (bred in captivity, so should be 50% gray wolf, 50% coyote, like claimed the Eastern Wolves are):
Image
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coywolf

Compared to an Algonquin/ Eastern Wolves:
Image
http://www.algonquinprovincialpark.ca

Image

They don't look very similar to me.

The second picture is from here which also has a study on the North American Canids with very different results:
http://blog.nature.org/science/2015/08/ ... it-easier/

In a Nutshell: Eastern wolves, often considered to be a hybrid of gray wolves and coyotes, actually represent a separate species, revealed by the latest genomic research published in Biology Letters. The paper also helps clarify the hybrid origins of other wild canines, including Eastern coyotes and Great Lakes wolves.

Unlike Little Red Riding Hood, most of us can tell the difference between a wolf and Grandmother. But beyond that: our wolf identification skills are probably not as good as we think.

Consider the names bandied about the popular media today: gray wolf, red wolf, coyote, coywolf, coydog. Which of these are species? What is the real deal with hybrids? What does it mean for conservation?

The answers are not simple, in large part because the topic of wolves and wolf hybrids often resides more in the realm of folklore than biology. A good way to pick a fight in any bar in rural America is to start offering opinions on “Canadian gray wolves” or “coywolves” or “eastern coyotes.”

What does the science say?

A new paper in the journal Biology Letters uses the latest genomic techniques to give a clearer picture of canid taxonomy and hybrid origins. The researchers used a technique called restriction site association DNA marker sequencing (RADSeq) and genomic simulations to resolve the hybrid status of wild canines in North America.

It’s only in the last ten years that these techniques have been developed to be able to understand complicated biological systems — not just in humans and fruit flies, but in wolves and all kinds of other creatures.

A whole new set of questions can now be answered with these genomic techniques – including questions about wolf hybrids.

Even the paper’s authors acknowledge that canine taxonomy can be, well…complicated.

“The genetics has gotten very complicated,” says the paper’s lead author, Linda Rutledge, post-doctoral researcher and instructor at Trent University, Ontario. “It’s very difficult for people to read genomic papers and understand them.”
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So what should wildlife conservationists know about this research? Here are some key points.
Despite being often overlooked, Eastern wolves are a separate species.

The paper notes two prevailing evolutionary models for animals in the Canis genus in North America. One model maintains that there are two species of wild canids: the gray wolf (Canis lupus) and coyote (Canis latrans). Their comingling has also resulted in various hybrids.

The second adds a third species to the mix: the Eastern wolf (Canis lycaon).

For years, many have considered the Eastern wolf to be one of the hybrids of gray wolves and coyotes. This has led to confusion among policy makers and the general public.

The genomic research in this paper found no evidence that the Eastern wolf is a hybrid.

It’s a separate species.
Disagreement over the eastern wolf’s evolutionary history may be its biggest threat.

As geneticists debate, policy makers and wildlife managers base their decisions on confusing information. Or, more often: they feel paralyzed to make decisions.

Eastern wolves, though, need action. Their core population is centralized in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. For many years, the animals could be legally shot as soon as they left the park.

That’s changed: there is now a buffer zone around the park that prohibits all hunting and trapping of wild canids.

But beyond that, protection of eastern wolves in Ontario is largely on paper only. Why? The eastern wolf is difficult to tell apart from the coyote. And coyotes can be hunted or trapped year round, without bag limits.

So it’s essentially open season on eastern wolves in potential expansion areas.

The paper’s authors hope that establishing the evolutionary history of the eastern wolf, demonstrating it is a species and not a hybrid, will lead to better protection.

“The eastern wolf needs a recovery plan that extends into dispersal areas, including Quebec,” says Rutledge. “There is wonderful habitat for them to disperse into; there just needs to be protection so they are not killed as soon as they disperse out of the buffer zone.”

astern coyotes and Great Lakes wolves are hybrids.

The genomic testing revealed three species of canids, but there are also hybrids arising from these species encountering each other.

Here is what the paper argues about hybrids.

Eastern coyotes are hybrids of western coyotes and eastern wolves. This is the animal often referred to as the coywolf.

Following extermination of wild canids in the eastern United States following European colonization, western coyotes began colonizing the habitat – and bred with eastern wolves when they encountered them on their expansion.

Great Lakes wolves are hybrids of gray wolves and eastern wolves.
Red wolves are likely the same species as eastern wolves.

The researchers did not test for red wolves for this paper, but relied on a body of work conducted previously.

These animals, once found in the southeastern United States, became critically endangered in the 1900s, and the last wild animals were gathered and placed in captive breeding facilities.

The captive breeding of a small population may have caused their genetics to diverge from eastern wolves. They have been since been reintroduced in sites of the Southeast – where they breed readily with coyotes, perhaps further confusing the genetic situation.

“The attention and controversy around wolves is all cultural, not biological,” says coauthor Paul Hohenlohe, assistant professor of biology at the University of Idaho. “But the reality is the biological situation is also complicated. It’s not static.”
The role of canids in ecosystems is as important as their evolutionary history.

Arguments about wolf management and conservation can quickly descend into trying to reconstruct the past. What wolf really belongs in the East? Were gray wolves there? Are Canadian gray wolves the same as Rocky Mountain wolves?

Historical records don’t help. European explorers were not taxonomists, let alone geneticists. They called things by confusing and inconsistent names: brush wolf and gray wolf and black wolf could all mean the same thing, or be perceived as different species.

And so obsessing over what canine belongs where can seem a futile quest.

Lead author Rutledge proposes another way for conservationists to approach this: focus on the ecosystem not the species.

“Conservation focuses on a very species-specific model,” she says. “Agencies often want to know first whether a species is taxonomically valid, but that may not be an efficient way to approach conservation in general. Our research shows that what species are can be very difficult to pin down.”

“But we know that ecosystems need top predators,” she continues. “That is so clear in the case of over-abundant white-tailed deer in eastern forests. The eastern wolf could play that role, if it could disperse.”

In other words: Let’s quit trying to make wolves fit into our neat little taxonomic boxes. Let’s focus instead on how to protect and restore their critical role as top predators.
References

The paper: Rutledge LY, Devillard S, Boone JQ, Hohenlohe PA, White BN. 2015 RAD sequencing and genomic simulations resolve hybrid origins within North American Canis. Biol. Lett.11: 20150303. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2015.0303
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Re: DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America

Postby caninesrock » Sat Jul 30, 2016 8:08 am

Also, I just looked it up and apparently it was 17 red wolves they kept, not 14. Still a small number regardless though. Actually I came across an interesting article about whether red wolves should be allowed to interbreed with coyotes. I'm currently on my phone preparing to go into work, but when I get home, I can quote and link the article which I have saved on my computer.
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Re: DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America

Postby Ash » Mon Aug 08, 2016 1:49 pm

I was speaking with a coworker of mine, and a wonderful question to ask... is WHERE do we define a species? It is very subjective in MANY cases. There are "lumpers," and "dividers" within the scientific community. Some groups want to lump species together, while others want to further divide them. There is no real definition of "species." It's subject to those running the study.

That being said, there ARE official scientific groups out there. I can't remember the one that controls the taxonomy of mammals (will have to ask my coworker), but that is THE official group. So if it doesn't say it on there, then this would just be another study.

Just because one researcher may conduct a study and get "definitive" results doesn't mean it is going to be agree upon by the rest of their peers. That's why there is the one organization that collects the data and "decides."

Species classification is not cut and dry. It is very difficult. For example, my coworker and I were discussing a species of lizard. We'll call it "Species 1." It lives on one side of a mountain. On the OTHER side of the mountain lives "Species 2." Species 1 and 2 CANNOT interbreed. Yet, as you go AROUND the mountain, you see a progression of each species becoming the other species. What in the world would you call those ones in the middle, between the two sides? They aren't hybrids since species 1 and 2 cannot interbreed. So what in the world should they be called?

Examples like that make species classification way harder than it needs to be, lol.
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Re: DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America

Postby caninesrock » Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:52 pm

I tend to go by what IUCN and the Canid Specialist Group say and they still list the red wolf as a separate species.

http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/3747/0

http://www.canids.org/species/view/PREKJI659751
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Re: DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America

Postby Ash » Wed Aug 10, 2016 1:28 pm

That's because they adhere to what the mammal science group says. Once again, I need to ask my coworker about it so I don't keep calling it the "mammal science taxonomy group," lol.
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Re: DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America

Postby caninesrock » Fri Apr 07, 2017 5:06 pm

Well it happened. I was afraid this "study" would cause something like this. USFWS is moving towards discontinuing all recovery efforts for red wolves.

https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/new ... -2016.html
Bowing to political pressure, the Fish and Wildlife Service has stopped virtually all aspects of the recovery program for red wolves and is conducting a “feasibility review” as a pretext to further dismantle the program. The Service eliminated the program’s recovery coordinator in 2014 and stopped the introduction of new red wolves into the wild in July 2015. The agency ended its coyote-sterilization program to prevent hybrid animals from harming the red wolf’s gene pool, curtailed law-enforcement investigations of wolf deaths, and stopped offering rewards to the public to help bring poachers to justice.

Red wolf releases in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge began in the mid-1980s and pushed the population to more than 100 wolves by the mid-2000s. The population stopped growing in 2011 as gunshot mortalities increased. Red wolf mortality skyrocketed after North Carolina authorized nighttime hunting of coyotes, because red wolves and coyotes are nearly indistinguishable in the dark. Following a successful lawsuit to stop nighttime hunting, the Fish and Wildlife Service faced increased political pressure to curtail the red wolf recovery program.

The red wolf once ranged from Texas to Virginia throughout the Southeast coastal plains, but now survives only in a small part of eastern North Carolina. New population counts released by the Fish and Wildlife Service show the population has declined to as low as 45 individuals. The lawsuit launched today is designed to push the Fish and Wildlife Service into resuming the actions necessary for red wolves to recover in the wild, including introduction of wolves to additional sites and appointment of a recovery coordinator.

“The reintroduction of red wolves to the wild was one of the country’s most innovative and successful programs to restore a critically endangered carnivore,” said Hartl. “But under Dan Ashe, this highly successful program has been quietly dismantled to appease a few anti-wildlife zealots. It’s a disgrace.”

You can read the full article at the link posted above, but I quoted what I thought were the most important parts.

https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/new ... -2016.html
The total estimated population has declined by about 50 percent since 2012, from 100 to 120 individuals to just 50 to 75 in 2015. The declines have occurred since the Service bowed to political pressure from the state of North Carolina, eliminating the program’s recovery coordinator in 2014 and stopping the introduction of new red wolves into the wild in July 2015. The agency also ended a coyote-sterilization program to prevent hybrid animals from harming the gene pool, drastically reduced law-enforcement investigations of wolf deaths, and stopped publicizing cases where poaching was determined to be the cause of deaths.

“Director Ashe and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are deliberately condemning the red wolf to extinction,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The red wolf recovery program was once a shining example of successful conservation. Under the direction of Dan Ashe, the program has been quietly dismantled to appease a few anti-wildlife zealots. It’s disgraceful.”

Red wolf releases in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge began in the mid-1980s and pushed the population to more than 100 wolves by the mid-2000s. The population stopped growing in 2011 as gunshot mortalities increased. Red wolf mortality skyrocketed after North Carolina authorized nighttime hunting of coyotes because red wolves and coyotes are nearly indistinguishable in the dark. Following a successful lawsuit to stop nighttime hunting, the Fish and Wildlife Service faced increased political pressure to curtail the red wolf recovery program.

“Conservation scientists have shown that recovering the red wolf is completely achievable and know what steps need to be taken next,” said Hartl. “Rather than following the science, the red wolf program is in disarray because the Service won’t stand up to this political pressure.”

A 2014 report from the independent Wildlife Management Institute concluded that if the red wolf is going to recover, two additional populations need to be established in the wild, and additional resources need to be invested to build local support for red wolf recovery.

There is strong local and national support for red wolves. Recently 100 citizens who live in the red wolf recovery area in North Carolina sent a petition to the Fish and Wildlife Service expressing their support for keeping endangered red wolves in the wild. In addition, 110,000 people from around the United States, including more than 1,500 North Carolina residents, submitted letters in support of the red wolf program.


https://www.thedodo.com/red-wolf-recove ... 22904.html

With just 45 or fewer of them left in the wild, the most endangered wolf on Earth needs help to survive.
But in September, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced it was stopping the Red Wolf Recovery Program, which sought to save the last wild red wolves, who live in North Carolina. Instead USFWS suggested rounding up the animals and putting them in zoos.

But 30 scientists just submitted a letter to the USFWS, urging it to reconsider. Rather than reducing the area where the wolves can roam, some conservationists want the USFWS to recommit to releasing the red wolf into the wild and establishing new places in the wild forests of the Southeast where the red wolves can live.

"Unfortunately, in 2014 when USFWS halted all key management activity including captive-to-wild releases, the wild red wolf population plummeted to its lowest level in decades," Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC), told The Dodo.
Howell explained that the data the USFWS used to make the decision to halt the program was misinterpreted. Scientists are saying that the government's new plan "will no doubt result in the extinction of red wolves in the wild."

This is why WCC is trying to get people to take action and speak up for the animals.

The center recently posted a video of one of their red wolves involved with the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan, a national initiative whose primary purpose is to support the reestablishment of red wolves in the wild. "With less than 45 red wolves remaining in the wild, he might be the last one you see," the group wrote.

"The Red wolf in the video ... is one of 8 red wolves that call the WCC home," Howell said. "M2119 represents the WCC's active participation in an effort to save a species from extinction ... Red wolves are an American icon that makes our country's wild lands whole and healthy."

Now it seems that, after three decades, the government is giving up on having red wolves survive in the wild, depending on the 200 red wolves in breeding facilities to sustain the species in captivity.

We need to get beyond the mistakes and choices of the past and commit to working together," Cindy Dohner, Southeast regional director for the USFWS, said at a press conference.

The red wolf once lived in states across the South from Texas to Florida, and as far north as Pennsylvania, but because of hunting and habitat loss, was nearly extinct by the 1970s. The now-halted recovery program began in 1980. It seemed successful when it brought the population up to about 150 wild red wolves in 2012, after breeding and releasing red wolves into Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina in 1987. But hunting and habitat loss have once again decimated the wild population.

To help red wolves, you can send a letter to the government about your concern. You can also donate to Wolf Conservation Center here.


http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op- ... 28197.html

Defenders of Wildlife have resigned from the Red Wolf Recovery Team in North Carolina because, though it ostensibly was assembled to make recommendations for red wolf conservation and recovery, it has not been organized and directed to have any chance of achieving this important goal.

Three decades ago, red wolves returned to North Carolina for the first time in generations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured the last remaining red wolves in the wild, and 14 individuals formed the foundation of a captive breeding program. From the initial release of captive-bred red wolves on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge until very recently, the Red Wolf Recovery Program has made steady progress: The population in the wild had grown to around 110 and helped set an example for carnivore restoration. In recent years, however, the red wolf program has faced serious challenges. The influx of coyotes has raised concerns about hybridization, and efforts to control coyotes have often resulted in red wolves getting shot, victims of mistaken identity.

In 2012, no fewer than 10 red wolves died from gunshots after the state of North Carolina authorized night hunting of coyotes in red wolf habitat. While litigation by Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation organizations ultimately led to the end of coyote night hunting, daytime hunting is still allowed, and red wolves are still being shot.

Unfortunately, instead of working with private landowners to provide the tools they need to coexist with red wolves and stepping up management practices like coyote sterilization, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has withdrawn its proactive support of red wolf recovery. In 2015, the service stopped releasing captive red wolves into the wild. It has eliminated the full-time red wolf coordinator position at the refuge. It has all but abandoned its coyote sterilization program and even issued permits to landowners allowing them to shoot red wolves on their properties with little attempt at trying to remove them.

Just last year, the service gave a landowner a lethal control permit, and a breeding female red wolf was shot. This was a huge loss for the species, as it is believed that now only about a dozen breeding-age female red wolves remain in the wild.

When our group was invited to join the Red Wolf Recovery Team in September, we welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wildlife researchers and other stakeholders. We relied on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s own statements that the team was intended to guide future red wolf conservation efforts with the ultimate goal of recovery in the wild. But it soon became clear that the team has no real chance of success.

The team has met once. The service has not affirmed its commitment to red wolf recovery in North Carolina and has not tasked the team with creating a scientifically based plan for achieving red wolf recovery. In fact, it has recently become clear that the team is not meant to make any attempt to reach a consensus on recovery and will simply evaluate alternative approaches to the recovery program, including its termination. That is not what a species recovery team does.

The failure of this team to guide future red wolf recovery efforts is yet another blow to a species that has encountered setback after setback. Just recently a landowner who is a member of the Red Wolf Recovery Team trapped a red wolf and held it for at least a day, while demanding a permit allowing him to kill wolves on his property. This situation is indicative of why the “recovery” team has little chance of achieving its original purported goals.

The plight of the red wolf isn’t just a North Carolina or Southeast wildlife issue, and it’s not just a story about mismanagement. It’s a story about our nation’s commitment to protecting endangered species in a time of increasing opposition to federal action. It’s a story that has serious implications for imperiled species conservation across the United States. The red wolf’s story needs to be heard, and its time is running out.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op- ... rylink=cpy




https://www.fws.gov/redwolf/faq.html
1) Why is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) conducting a review for the red wolf recovery program?

The Service recognized a need to gather additional science and research to help us better guide recovery of the red wolf in the wild under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). To that end, the Service announced in June it would engage state partners and key stakeholders in conducting a review that will support the agency’s future recovery planning and implementation actions for red wolves.



2) What are the issues the Service will consider in the review of the recovery program?

The Service is working closely with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, academia, non-governmental organizations, and private landowners to gather the best available science on four components:

1) appropriate taxonomic designation and historic distribution of the red wolf;
2) long-term viability of the captive red wolf population;
3) recovery needs of the red wolf population given pressures such as hybridization with coyotes, human caused mortality, and climate change; and
4) how people and red wolves can co-exist.


4) Why did the Service convene a new red wolf recovery team?

The Service is convening a new red wolf recovery team to provide expanded expertise and support as current challenges to recovering red wolves in the wild are addressed. The primary task for the recovery planning team, led by the science experts, will be to review the best available information provided for the each of four components. They have already started the process and are expected to convene in early December. The team will then develop a recommendation to the Service on recovery of the red wolf that reconciles updated science and provides guidance on priority implementation tasks to address the current challenges on the landscape facing recovery of this imperiled species.



Service Halts Red Wolf Reintroductions Pending Examination of Recovery Program
1) What are the Service’s future plans for managing the Eastern North Carolina NonEssential Experimental Red Wolf Population?

We will continue to manage the Red Wolf Non-Essential Experimental Population (NEP) in accordance with our existing rule and regulation at 50 C.F.R. § 17.84(c). In keeping with our rule, we will no longer release red wolves from our captive population into the recovery area, which is comprised of Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties. The Service is keenly aware that the conservation and recovery of the red wolf cannot be accomplished through its efforts alone. Accordingly, we will work proactively to strengthen our relationships with the State of North Carolina, our partners, and landowners, whose cooperation will be vital to conserving and recovering the species.

The Wildlife Management Institute’s (WMI) recently completed evaluation of our Red Wolf Recovery Program and management history of the NEP highlights the need for us to further analyze whether recovery of the red wolf in the wild is feasible at this time. We have already begun to evaluate the NEP and its role in the overall recovery effort of the red wolf. We will continue our evaluation by engaging in additional scientific research into the feasibility of recovering the species via the NEP and anticipate completion of this process by the end of 2015.


2) What are some of the actions the Service will undertake to manage the presence of Red Wolves on Private Lands within the NEP area?

Red wolves are federally-listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, and, therefore, protected on public and private lands. We will, however, continue our efforts to remove red wolves from private lands when requested to do so by the landowner. Private landowners also will be allowed to take animals when authorized by a permit in accordance with our regulation.

Red wolves removed from private lands will be released onto the Alligator River or Pocosin Lake national wildlife refuge. If a wolf has a health or behavioral problem, it will not be returned to the wild but placed in captivity or disposed of in accordance with our management protocols.


We have a variety of other tools and programs available to private landowners who are interested in allowing wildlife management activities for the NEP and other species to occur on their lands. We are developing additional tools and programs to enable landowners to collaborate in managing the NEP.


3) Why has the Service decided not to terminate the NEP at this juncture?

The NEP is the only red wolf population in this country that exists in the wild. It has and continues to provide valuable information on the species’ biology and management. Since there are no other red wolf populations in the wild, we need to maintain this population to learn more about the species such as its dispersal patterns, interaction with coyotes, preferred habitats, and susceptibility to diseases as well as matters associated with managing the species. We have learned much about the red wolf from our management activities and research on the NEP, but many questions that are essential to recovery of the species remain and can only be answered through further study of the NEP. Accordingly, those red wolves that are already on the landscape will remain there unless circumstances require the return of an animal to captivity.


4) Are you removing the wolves from the landscape?

No. Those red wolves already in the wild will remain there, and the Service will continue to work with landowners who have red wolves on their property and want them removed. The Service is, however, stopping the release of red wolves into the wild at this time as well.

https://www.fws.gov/redwolf/evaluation.html
Recovery of the red wolf in the wild is feasible with significant changes that must be implemented to secure the captive and wild populations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today it will begin implementing a series of actions based on the best and latest scientific information gathered over the past 21 months. Today’s announcement comes after a two-year, two-step evaluation of the entire red wolf recovery program, including the evaluation of the captive population and the non-essential, experimental population in Eastern North Carolina, that began in 2014 with a peer-reviewed program assessment by the Wildlife Management Institute. This review was expanded last June to include the recommendations of a red wolf recovery team that examined feasibility of recovery in the wild, population viability, red wolf taxonomy, the historical range, and human dimensions.

This team completed a report with a series of options earlier this month. The steps announced today by the Service are guided by that work.


USFWS is :wall: :cry:
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