In DepthConservation Biology

Rethinking the North American wolf

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Science  29 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6298, pp. 434-435
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6298.434

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Summary

What makes a wolf a wolf? For more than 30 years, scientists, conservationists, and policymakers attempting to restore and protect the large wild canids that once roamed North America have pondered that question. Now, a study of the complete genomes of 28 canids reveals that despite differences in body size and behavior, North American gray wolves and coyotes are far more closely related than previously believed, and only recently split into two lineages. Furthermore, the endangered red and eastern wolves are not unique lineages with distinct evolutionary histories, but relatively recent hybrids of gray wolves and coyotes, the scientists report online this week in Science Advances. And that may be a problem, because the Endangered Species Act doesn't explicitly protect hybrid animals.