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New evidence that oriental wolves evolved separately from gray wolves


Eastern wolves from Algonquin Provincial Park, Whitney, Ontario. Credit: Dave Ciovo / Molecular Biology and Evolution

new paper in Molecular Biology and Evolution It provides interesting new evidence about the evolution of wolves in North America, which has been a topic of debate among conservationists and taxonomists.

Southeast Canada is home to populations of wolves and coyotes whose origins and genetic relationships have long puzzled scientists. In particular, eastern wolves have been the subject of much dispute, and it remains unknown whether these dogs represent a distinct species or are the result of recent hybridization between wolves and gray wolves. The Canidae family includes coyotes, foxes, jackals, wolves, and pet dogs.

In Canada, the eastern coyote (also known as the eastern timber wolf or Algonquin wolf) has been recognized by some as a distinct species based on genetic and behavioral studies. Eastern coyotes are listed as a “Special Concern” in Canada under the federal Vulnerable and “Threatened” Species Act in Ontario under the province’s Endangered Species Act.

But while previous studies have indicated that eastern wolves are distinct from coyotes and gray wolves in Canada, the provincial government currently manages them as a single species across its primary range in central Ontario. The grouping of these three taxonomic entities for management is necessary because it is very difficult for humans to visually distinguish between wild and crossbred dogs in central Ontario. This leads to frustration among some hunters, fishermen, and farmers, and challenges in enforcing hunting and trap regulations.

To test hypotheses regarding these competing outcomes for eastern wolves, the researchers sequenced the entire genomes of 25 animals of known ancestry and contemporaneous interbreeding levels, representative of all canine species similar to the Canadian wolf. The analysis shows that the eastern wolves that live in the Great Lakes region of southeastern Canada are genetically different from other canids in the region. Based on the results, it appears that eastern wolves evolved separately from gray wolves around 67,000 years ago. Scientists here believe that eastern wolves bred with coyotes around 37,000 years ago and continue to mix with both coyotes and gray wolves.

“This manuscript addresses key evolutionary questions among wolf-like dogs in North America, but also provides data of direct and applied relevance,” said the paper’s lead author, Christopher Kyle. “This work represents a strong international collaboration that culminates in complementary expertise between wolf experts from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests and scientists from the University of Ferrara in Italy, and Trent University in Ontario, Canada, with a long-standing interest in the origin and genetics of Canis in North America.”

more information:
Sibelle Vilaça et al, Tracing the origins of the eastern wolf from whole-genome data in the context of large-scale hybridization, Molecular Biology and Evolution (2023). DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msad055 And academ.oup.com/mbe/article-l….1093/molbev/msad055

Provided by Oxford University Press

the quote: New Evidence That Eastern Wolves Evolved Separately from Gray Wolves (2023, April 13) Retrieved April 13, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-evidence-eastern-wolves-evolved-gray. html

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