Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Millions of Dog-Coyote-Wolf Hybrids Now Roam Eastern U.S.

Science

A new species combining wolves, coyotes and dogs is evolving before scientists’ eyes in the eastern U.S.

Wolves faced with a diminishing number of potential mates are lowering their standards and mating with other, similar species, reported The Economist. The interbreeding began up to 200 years ago, as European settlers pushed into southern Ontario, clearing the wolf's habitat for farming and killing a large number of the wolf families who lived there. This also allowed coyotes to spread from the prairies, and the farmers brought dogs into the region.

Over time, wolves began mating with their new, genetically similar neighbors. The resulting offspring—which has been called the eastern coyote, or to some, the coywolf—now number in the millions, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.

Interspecies-bred animals are typically less vigorous than their parents, the Economist reported, if the offspring survive at all. That’s not the case with the wolf-coyote-dog hybrid, which has developed into a sum greater than the whole of its parts. At about 55 pounds, the hybrid animal is about twice as heavy as a standard coyote, and its larger jaws, faster legs and muscular body allows it to take down small deer and even hunt moose in packs in both open terrain and dense woodland.

An analysis of 437 hybrid animals found that coyote DNA dominates its genetic makeup, with about one-tenth of its DNA from dogs, usually larger dogs such as Doberman pinschers and German shepherds, and a quarter from wolves.

The animal’s cry starts out as a deep-pitched wolf howl that morphs into higher-pitched yipping, like a coyote.

The coywolf's dog DNA may carry an additional advantage. Some scientists think the hybrid animal is able to adapt to city life—which neither coyotes or wolves have managed to do—because its dog ancestry allows it to tolerate people and noise. Coywolves have spread into some of the nation’s largest cities, including New York, Boston and Washington, DC.

The interbreeding allows the animal to diversify its diet and eat discarded food, along with rodents and smaller mammals, including cats, and they have evolved to become nocturnal to avoid humans.

Some of the animals are also smart enough to learn to look both ways before crossing roads.

Not all researchers agree the coywolf is a distinct species, arguing that one species does not interbreed with another, although the hybrid’s existence raises the question of whether wolves and coyotes are distinct species in the first place.

But scientists who have studied the animal say the mixing of genes has been much faster, extensive and transformational than anyone had noticed until fairly recently.

“[This] amazing contemporary evolution story [is] happening right underneath our nose,” said Roland Kays, a researcher at North Carolina State.

Watch this report on coywolves posted online by THIRTEEN:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

National Geographic’s Stunning Portraits Bare the Stark Reality of Climate Change

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. NPS

By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

Read More Show Less
The ubiquity of guns and bullets poses environmental risks. Contaminants in bullets include lead, copper, zinc, antimony and mercury. gorancakmazovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Bystanders watch the MV Wakashio bulk carrier from which oil is leaking near Blue Bay Marine Park in southeast Mauritius, on August 6, 2020. Photo by Dev Ramkhelawon / L'Express Maurice / AFP / Getty Images

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, renowned for its coral reefs, is facing an unprecedented ecological catastrophe after a tanker ran aground offshore and began leaking oil.

Read More Show Less
A mural honors the medics fighting COVID-19 in Australia, where cases are once again rising, taken on April 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

By Gianna-Carina Grün

While the first countries are easing their lockdowns, others are reporting more and more new cases every day. Data for the global picture shows the pandemic is far from over. DW has the latest statistics.

Read More Show Less
Hannah Watters wrote on Twitter that she was suspended for posting a video and photo of crowded hallways at her high school. hannah @ihateiceman

As the debate over how and if to safely reopen schools in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic continues, two student whistleblowers have been caught in the crosshairs.

Read More Show Less
Hurricane Florence on Sept. 12, 2018. ESA / A.Gerst / CC BY-SA 2.0

Hurricane forecasters predict the 2020 hurricane season will be the second-most active in nearly four decades.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Qamutik cargo ship on July 28, 2020 in Canada's Nunavut province, where two ice caps have disappeared completely. Fiona Paton / Flickr

Three years ago, scientists predicted it would happen. Now, new NASA satellite imagery confirms it's true: two ice caps in Canada's Nunavut province have disappeared completely, providing more visual evidence of the rapid warming happening near the poles, as CTV News in Canada reported.

Read More Show Less