Research Brief: Red Wolves Are Recent Hybrids of Gray Wolves and Coyotes

By Virginia Morell

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.

Read the article: Rethinking the North American Wolf (Science)

Virginia Morrell is a contributing correspondent to National Geographic Magazine and Science Magazine. She has published several books, including ANIMAL WISE: How We Know Animals Think and Feel (Crown, 2013, a New York Times Bestseller) and BLUE NILE (National Geographic Adventure Press, 2001, a “San Francisco Chronicle” Best Travel Book of the Year). She is also serves on the advisory board of the National Geographic Expeditions Council.

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Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn