Researchers have successfully bred coyote-wolf hybrids, confirming what nature has known for some time.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released news of their findings, as the hybrid pups have been born to a male western gray wolf and a female western coyote in captivity.
Partnering with the St. Louis Zoo, University of California, Davis, and Wildlife Science Center, the USGS artificially inseminated nine female coyotes with sperm from eight different gray wolves. Three became pregnant, with one successfully birthing six live and healthy pups. They are residing in Forest Lake, Minnesota's Wildlife Science Center.
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"Our study adds one more piece to the ongoing controversy over whether the eastern wolf is a valid species," said the report's lead author David Mech, a USGS scientist.
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Thanks to the hybrid confirmation, the USGS is providing new information regarding the questions around the eastern wolf, a resident of southeastern Canada and formerly of the eastern US. The debate over whether or not the eastern wolf should be considered a new species and protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Wildlife geneticists have argued that the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)--DNA that's only passed to offspring by the mother--that has been discovered in wolves from Manitoba, Canada, through the Great Lakes into southeast Canada, suggests that these unique wolves are produced either from hybridization with coyotes or by hybridizing with the eastern wolf. The coyote and eastern wolf have similar DNA patterns, so the truth has yet to be found in terms of natural hybridization.
"Our findings leave the eastern wolf debate open by adding further merit to the hybrid theory rather than disproving it," Mech said in the release. "However, the findings are applicable to captive animals and are not necessarily true under natural conditions, so the counter-hybrid theory is not disproved either."
What do you think of the scientific confirmation? Should eastern wolves be protected as a new species?