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Gray wolf is the only pure wolf species in North America
Only true wolf species in North America is the gray wolf, according to a new research paper published in Science Advances. The other purported species, the Eastern wolf and the red wolf, the mix of gray wolf and coyote DNA, unveils a study. The research findings published in the journal Science Advances could have implications for the conservation of wolves considered endangered in the United States.
In the study, the researchers have carried whole genome sequencing of 28 canids, including gray wolves, eastern wolves, red wolves and coyotes in North America. In genetic terminology, gray wolves and coyotes are not much different. Both the species have separated from a common ancestor around 50,000 years back in Eurasia.
Red wolves and eastern wolves from the Great Lakes region have been found to be genetic hybrids. Study’s author Robert Wayne from the University of California, Los Angeles said that gray wolf-coyote hybrids were mistakenly considered as a distinct species owing to their peculiar looks.
In comparison with eastern wolves, red wolves are more genetically similar to coyotes. The research paper published in the journal Science Advances has unveiled that the genomes of Eastern wolves were half gray and half coyote. Red wolves’ genomes were 75% coyote and only 25% wolf.
Evolutionary biologist Robert K. Wayne from the University of California, Los Angeles said that the mix of coyote and wolf DNA highlights the need for having a more sophisticated approach to conserve biological diversity.
Dr. Wayne believes that red and eastern wolves should get protection irrespective of the fact that they contain high level of coyote DNA. Linda Y. Rutledge, an expert on Eastern wolves, said that even red and eastern wolves are not pure ones and are hybrids then also they still pay an important role in eastern forests as top predators and should be protected.