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Wolves, Coyotes, and Dogs: Species or Races?
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Race can’t exist because the boundaries are too vague. The existence of species, however, is assumed in the name of the Endangered Species Act. Yet, when we stop and think about dogs, wolves, and coyotes, it’s not immediately obvious whether these familiar beasts should be classified as three species or three races within one species.
A press release has some genetic relevant to this old conundrum:

ALBANY, NY.- A State Museum scientist has co-authored a new research article, representing the most detailed genomic study of its kind, which shows that wolves and coyotes in the eastern United States are hybrids between gray wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs.  

Dr. Roland Kays, the Museum’s curator of mammals, was one of 15 other national and international scientists who collaborated on the study that used unprecedented genetic technology, developed from the dog genome, to survey the global genetic diversity in dogs, wolves and coyotes. The study used over 48,000 genetic markers, making it the most detailed genomic study of any wild vertebrate species.  

The research results are especially relevant to wolves and coyotes in the Northeast. The study shows a gradient of hybridization in wolves, with pure wolves in western states and increasing hybridization as you move east. Wolves in the western Great Lakes area averaged a genetic makeup of 85 percent wolf and 15 percent coyote, 

My wife saw one of these wolf-coyote hybrids in Racine, Wisconsin a dozen years ago: it looked big, assertive, and scary like a wolf, but was fairly solitary, like a coyote. In Southern California, in contrast, there are no wolves, and coyotes furtively skulk around by themselves.

while wolves in Algonquin Park in eastern Ontario averaged 58 percent wolf, and the ‘red wolf’ in North Carolina was only 24 percent wolf and 76 percent coyote. Populations of eastern coyotes, which only colonized the region in the last 60 years, were also minor hybrids, with some introgression of genetic material from wolves and domestic dogs. For example, Northeastern coyotes, including those in New York State, had genetic material primarily from coyotes (82 percent), with a minor contribution from dogs (9 percent) and wolves (9 percent).  …

Kays said “In most cases this breeding across species lines seems to have happened at times when humans were hunting eastern wolves to extinction, and the few remaining animals could find no proper mates, so took the best option they could get.” Kays continues, “The exceptions were an older hybridization between coyotes and wolves in the western Great Lakes dating from 600-900 years ago, and a coyote-dog hybridization in the eastern U.S. about 50 years ago, when coyote were first colonizing eastern forests.”  

This study also provides fresh data on the controversy over the species status of the Red Wolf in North Carolina, and the Eastern Canadian Wolf in Ontario. Both are medium-sized wolves that some have argued represent unique species. However, this new detailed genetic data shows both are the result of hybridizations between coyotes and wolves over the last few hundred years, and do not share a common origin in a unique eastern wolf species.  

This research is also relevant to a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife proposal to remove the western Great Lakes wolves from the Endangered Species Act by showing that those wolves are only marginally hybridized with coyotes, should be considered a subspecies of the Gray Wolf, and have no genetic ties to a more endangered form of eastern wolf. 

As with modern humans and Neanderthals, introgression allows rapid evolution to adapt to new environments:

This study follows another research paper co-authored by Kays last year in the journal Biology Letters, which used museum specimens and genetic samples to show that eastern coyotes hybridized with wolves to rapidly evolve into a larger form over the last 90 years, dramatically expanding their geographic range and becoming the top predator in the Northeast. This hybridization contributed to the evolution of coyotes from mousers of western grasslands to deer hunters of eastern forests. The resulting coy-wolf hybrids are larger, with wider skulls that are better adapted for hunting deer. 

Are Neanderthals and modern humans different species? I dunno.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: Dogs, Genetics, Race 
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  1. WesX [AKA "Wes"] says:

    So should some humans today be covered by the Endangered Species Act? What about some of the rare vanishing tribes in South America or Southeast Asia? Shouldn't we have programs to save them? I'm serious here, human diversity has value.

    And let's see the race-deniers claim that there is no value in preserving some vanishing tribe somewhere (since there is nothing unique about any human, right?)

  2. Elvisd says: • Website

    I've discussed this topic for a few years now, and recently went to see the latest red wolf puppies at the local refuge. I'm no specialist, but I've always found the topic interesting.

    How do you classify genetic divergence or convergence? Speciation is, in its most classic form, where two populations can no longer breed genetically.
    Under that definition, a lot of species would be lumped together (for example, a lot of the oaks will hybridize under certain conditions).

    In the red wolf's case, I've read different genetic timelines. This new study places a much more recent date from the 300,000 year one that I'm familiar with. I suspect that its tribe appeared longer ago than the recent date that this new study proposes, but stress factors, such as declining numbers, keeps coyote and the various coy/wolf/dog hybrids mixing in.
    The red wolf could be a good example of a population that experiences alternating waves of genetic divergence and convergence from related populations. Even if its numbers recover, its population could continue to behave in this manner for thousands of years. It probably would take geographic isolation for classical speciation to occur.

    We do have a kind of Endangered Species Act in the US. It's called the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

  3. The domestic dog is considered a subspecies of the wolf these days- Canis lupus familiaris rather than Canis familiaris.

  4. If you clear out one apex predator (in this case the eastern wolf) then something else will evolve to take its place, so long as the prey populations are still intact. But it's remarkable to see just how fast this happens…

  5. Aren't domestic dogs 100% derived from wolves anyway, but with an awful lot of selective breeding involved ?

  6. "Aren't domestic dogs 100% derived from wolves anyway,..": but presumably not from North American wolves.

  7. If Mayrs definition of biological species is accepted, then wolves, coyotes and dogs constitute a single species with geographic subspecies. Given time, the subspecies might evolve breeding incompatibilities and become true species.

    It is notable that virtually all practicing biologists define species by morphology, behavior and locality, but Mayrs' definition is seldom invoked. This may be due to the difficulty of establishing whether viable offspring occur in long-lived species.

    In all likelihood, his definition would invalidate the great majority of entries on the Endangered Species List. This adds a political dimension to species classifications.

  8. One of your best and most enduring metaphors. People like to think of evolution as a discreet act in a former time, not a process which gradually separates threads of development and then lets them fare as they may.

  9. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    A collapsing population of whites in California are hybridizing with Asians — mainly white men and Asian females. Even among the hybrids, there seems to be a preference for Asian women and white men so I expect a net flow of white y chromosomes into the Asian population and Asian X chromosomes into the white population.

    As for Jared Taylor's revulsion to the idea of grandchildren who look like Fu Man Chu, perhaps he'd be pleasantly surprised by grandaughters who look like Phoebe Cates.

  10. A Word to the Wise on Race discusses genetic differences between wolves and coyotes. Good article, but you have to read to the bottom to see Cochrane clearing up some misconceptions.

  11. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This is win-win for us.

    If we count them as different races, it proves that races are real and huge differences can exist among races–though we know that just by looking at various dog breeds.

    If we count them as different species(even though they can interbreed and produce fertile offsprings), then we can make an argument for counting different human races as different species.

    Both views are good for HBD.

    The Left is trapped in a corner with this one.

    Same goes for Cro-magnon and Neanderthals. Different species or races?

  12. Whether dogs, wolves, and coyotes are different races or species, I'll bet they're all under the power of weasels.

  13. What other species/races bring up this controversy? I think brown bears and polar bears.

  14. Can chimps and bonobos produce fertile offsprings?

  15. "The Left is trapped in a corner with this one."

    But maybe the left can say, 'you see, interracial or interspecieal mating is natural and takes place in the wild.' But then, an animal in heat will try to hump anything. Cats with clothing, dogs will legs.

  16. "The Left is trapped in a corner with this one."

    Not so fast. Remember, leftist arguments generally depend not a group of relevant facts but a distortion of carefully edited facts.

    I wouldn't be surprised if some Anonymous pointed to the failure of wolves to be domesticated as the inevitable result of wolf cubs living their lives in the shadows.

    Slightly OT but one of my favorite sounds is coyotes yipping on an autumn night.

  17. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "As for Jared Taylor's revulsion to the idea of grandchildren who look like Fu Man Chu, perhaps he'd be pleasantly surprised by grandaughters who look like Phoebe Cates."

    Cates looks a lot more Catherine Zeta Jones than Lucy Liu. I'm gonna suggest the Spanish line was much more prevalent in her mother's ancestry. Perhaps this hybridization should occur first between Hispanics and Asians. Otherwise, without that third set of genetic material, you're not getting long-limbed, round-eyed actress/model types. As for the other supposed advantages, you're not getting higher IQ with more versatility either just something a little different.

  18. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "Slightly OT but one of my favorite sounds is coyotes yipping on an autumn night."

    You don't have smallish, non-vicious dogs then who can't protect themselves in a confrontation with these critters.

    "Whether dogs, wolves, and coyotes are different races or species, I'll bet they're all under the power of weasels."

    Good one. 🙂

  19. >the few remaining animals could find no proper mates, so took the best option they could get.<

    Any port in a storm.

    Thus the passions at Little Rock and elsewhere. Brown v. Board was the start of official hybridizing of races in the USA. (Note the word official.)

  20. Lions and tigers can crossbreed, but I don't think anyone would consider them one species.

  21. Razib comments here.

    Paper on chimp-bonobo hybrids. Unfortunately, while the comment describing it is in English the actual cite appears not to be.

  22. Nothing is more silly than arguing whether wolves and dogs are subspecies or species, or whether Neanderthals are a separate species or not. It does not matter! One way or another, it is ARBITRARY. Not a difficult concept. No classification faithfully reflects real world. Agree on something/anything and move on.

  23. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Another interesting thing is that foxes have a slightly different chromosome count, and it is widely believed that no one has ever observed any offspring of a fox/canis coupling.

    [Which is not to say that it can't happen – that in very rare instances, a fox/canis coupling might produce a "mule" hybrid – but most biologists believe that it has never been observed.]

  24. Race can't exist because the boundaries are too vague.

    I know there are other arguments against this, but I keep coming back to the same question: what do these people think speciation looks like?

  25. There was some show I watched about a year ago where several celebrities had their genetic profile shown, and Eva Longoria was surprised to see she was 2/3 European. They had "European", "Asian", and "African", but no finer distinctions than that. American Indians were included in "Asian", and non-European Caucasians (South Asians, Arabs, etc.) were included in "European".

    It would seem that Europeans, Asians, and Africans are indeed as far apart as wolves, dogs, and coyotes.

  26. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "A collapsing population of whites in California are hybridizing with Asians — mainly white men and Asian females. Even among the hybrids, there seems to be a preference for Asian women and white men so I expect a net flow of white y chromosomes into the Asian population and Asian X chromosomes into the white population."

    Oh come on – widespread intermarriage between desperate white guys with Yellow Fever and desperate Asian girls from the bottom of the totem pole in their respective communities does not comprise beneficial miscegenation.

  27. Re Ernst Mayr:

    Biologist Ernst Mayr sees the species as a small gene pool protected from too much variability by a reproductive barrier. In other words, the species is a population adapted to a certain niche, and if the members of different species could interbreed with each other, too much genetic variability would occur, reducing the success of the adaptation. “The basic biological purpose of the species,” says Mayr, “is the protection of a harmonious gene pool.”

  28. As Steve has noted, more Asian immigration means less out-marriage among Asians. This seems to jibe with the latest census report on intermarriage and the like.

    Jessica Alba was disheartened to learn she was about 80% White, and was "delighted" to have a "brown baby" instead of a White one with husband Cash Warren (son of actor/UCLA Basketball star Michael Warren of Hill Street Blues).

    So being "White" is considered pretty bad, compared to the alternatives. See Halle Berry proclaiming the "one drop rule" to say her Baby was Black not White (she's half-White, her baby's father is all White).

  29. "Lions and tigers can crossbreed, but I don't think anyone would consider them one species."

    The hybrid offspring of the two are usually not fertile.

  30. IF Neanderthal genes are found among Whites, that might change things a bit. If Whites are indeed the "half-breed humans" that some suspect, compared to "pure blood" Africans and Asians, that's a fairly revolutionary aspect in the emotional terms.

    White women generally are the fulcrum for social change (always have been, always will be) among Whites. A deep sense of social shame and feeling "Whites are garbage" pervades female-dominated culture. A sense of cross-breeding with ancient humanoids certain shakes that up.

  31. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "Race can't exist because the boundaries are too vague.

    I know there are other arguments against this, but I keep coming back to the same question: what do these people think speciation looks like?"

    I think of a color wheel. The existence of orange does not mean that red and yellow don't exist.

  32. There is no IF about Neanderthal genes in modern humans. Every human population except sub-Saharan Africans has Neanderthal genes. On the order of 1-4% of the Eurasian genome is Neanderthal, if I recall correctly.

  33. "You don't have smallish, non-vicious dogs then who can't protect themselves in a confrontation with these critters."

    You're right about that. I'm partial to the bullbreeds.

    But I always put my dogs out in fenced area next to the house to do their business and always closely supervise any time they spend outdoors. I don't want them hurt by any four- or two-legged critters. And all my cats are strictly indoor cats.

  34. Similar phenomena have been observed with cats. The domestic cat has been shown to derive entirely from Felis sylvestris libyca, a subspecies of old-world wildcat found in the eastern littoral of the Mediterranean. Yet continental European and British wildcats sometimes cross with farm or feral cats. The ancient Scottish wildcat (F. sylvestris grampia) is known to cross with domestic cats, and the melanistic Kellas cat is thought to be such a cross. The large, domestic long-haired breed called the Maine coon cat is suspected by some to have bobcat (Lynx rufus) ancestry. Domestic cats have produced fertile offspring with the serval (Leptilaurus serval), which is not even of the genus Felis; they are known as Savannah cats and are fairly widely kept as pets. A domestic cat cross with the caracal (Caracal caracal) has been done at the Moscow zoo.

    The old standard belief that different species of the same genus may interbreed, but only to produce infertile offspring (as in the case of the mule) may well be the exception and not the rule.

  35. In all likelihood, his definition would invalidate the great majority of entries on the Endangered Species List

    Correct. Almost all American endangered species are distinct in appearance, behavior, or location (sometimes, unfortunately, only the latter) but appear to be able to interbreed successfully with some larger population of unendangered animal.

    -osvlado m.

  36. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "The old standard belief that different species of the same genus may interbreed, but only to produce infertile offspring (as in the case of the mule) may well be the exception and not the rule."

    I think people mean that the offspring are often "effectively" infertile implying not could you rather should you or would you.

  37. White women generally are the fulcrum for social change (always have been, always will be) among Whites. A deep sense of social shame and feeling "Whites are garbage" pervades female-dominated culture. A sense of cross-breeding with ancient humanoids certain shakes that up.

    Of course, being squid ink, your "theories" have zero predictive power.

  38. Are the hybrids less viable in the wild ?

    When Leendert Saarloos tried crossing wolves with Alsatians he got a breed of dog which is totally useless. Neanderthal hybrids would be more viable than modern humans ?

    What they really looked like.

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