Like some people who might rather not admit it, wolves faced with a scarcity of potential sexual partners are not beneath lowering their standards. It was desperation of this sort, biologists reckon, that led dwindling wolf populations in southern Ontario to begin, a century or two ago, breeding widely with dogs and coyotes. The clearance of forests for farming, together with the deliberate persecution which wolves often suffer at the hand of man, had made life tough for the species. That same forest clearance, though, both permitted coyotes to spread from their prairie homeland into areas hitherto exclusively lupine, and brought the dogs that accompanied the farmers into the mix.
Interbreeding between animal species usually leads to offspring less vigorous than either parent—if they survive at all. But the combination of wolf, coyote and dog DNA that resulted from this reproductive necessity generated an exception. The consequence has been booming numbers of an extraordinarily fit new animal (see picture) spreading through the eastern part of North America. Some call this creature the eastern coyote. Others, though, have dubbed it the “coywolf”. Whatever name it goes by, Roland Kays of North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, reckons it now numbers in the millions.
Fascinating stuff. It’s not every day, as the story says, that scientists are able to witness a new species being formed.
Related Newley.com post from 2013: What Domesticating Siberian Foxes May Tell Us About Dogs:
The gist: Over the course of more than 40 years, scientists took normal foxes, which were aggressive toward humans, and looked for the tamest ones.
Then they bred them.
In just a few generations, the foxes — animals that would typically attack humans when threatened — had become completely tame creatures that snuggled the scientists rather than biting their hands.
What’s more, over time, the foxes started to look like…dogs.
To take this one step further, friends, I ask you: Can it be long before people start trying to domesticate coyowolves?
Maybe it’s already happening?
Would they domesticate more quickly than wolves or coyotes, due to their canine DNA?