A recent study found that gray wolves, red wolves, and the eastern wolves are one type of wolf. Biologists from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) analyzed the three species and compared them with coyotes DNA to discovered the wolves in America are hybrids. This sets new evidence to reform the U.S. Endangered Species Act that does not include animals that have mixed with other kinds and the gray wolf current habitat.
The new study was published in the journal Science Advances and was led by Robert Wayne, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.
The researchers analyzed the genomes of 21 wolves and three coyotes. Among the wolves 12 were pure gray wolves found in areas where there are not coyotes, 6 were eastern wolves, and 3 were red wolves.
Wayne said that their results showed that the eastern wolf is just a gray wolf and coyote mix. The tests pointed that 75 percent of its genome was from the gray wolf and the rest of coyote. And red wolves turn out to be more coyote than a wolf, with 75 percent coyote genome and 25 percent from the gray wolf.
The press release of the study states that a substantial controversy argues whether red wolves and eastern wolves are genetically different species. But the study could not find a unique common ancestor without including the interbreeding theory between gray wolves and coyotes.
— UCLA Newsroom (@UCLAnewsroom) July 27, 2016
Protecting, or not, the gray wolves legacy
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is about to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act. This is because, under the Act, the gray wolf range included the Great Lakes region and 29 Eastern states and a significant part of the North of America. But it was recently found that the canines living there are the eastern wolves and not the gray species. A 2014 publication from the Fish and Wildlife Service discovered that the eastern wolf, and not the gray wolf, occupies the Great Lake territories and this fact invalids the original 1975 act. But scientist believes this is a mistake.
The gray wolf is now extinct in Mexico, Western Europe and in much of the United States and the team that made the research states the even though the gray wolf does not live in the Eastern states, it does live in the Great Lakes area.
The reasons behind this kind of wolf extinction were due to hunting and the introduction of the coyotes in the 1920s. It is believed that the first mixed between the animals took place in the American South where gray wolves were few and coyotes more common. Eventually, the gray wolf disappeared from the south of the country and red wolves had to mate with their own and with coyotes, which explains why they look like them.
Wayne is in favor not only of keeping the gray wolf as an endangered species, but he only thinks that the red wolf should be part of the list because even he is more coyote than the extinct wolf, it is the only trace of the gray wolf in the South of the United States.
The genome study of the three species of wolves that determines the animals DNA ancestors is not an innovation. Professor Robert Wayne, along with his research team, published in 1991 a study in the journal Nature that suggested that red wolves were a mixture of gray wolf and coyotes.
Source: UCLA Newsroom