Dna Profiles of the Eastern Canadian Wolf & the Red Wolf Provide Evidence For a Common Evolutionary History Independent of the Gray Wolf
June 30, 2019
The origin and taxonomy of the red wolf (Canis rufus) have been the subject of considerable debate and it has been suggested that this taxon was recently formed as a result of hybridization between the coyote and gray wolf. Like the red wolf, the eastern Canadian wolf has been characterized as a small “deer-eating” wolf that hybridizes with coyotes (Canis latrans). While studying the population of eastern Canadian wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park we recognized similarities to the red wolf, based on DNA profiles at 8 microsatellite loci. We examined whether this relationship was due to similar levels of introgressed coyote genetic material by comparing the microsatellite alleles with those of other North American populations of wolves and coyotes. These analyses indicated that it was not coyote genetic material which led to the close genetic affinity between red wolves and eastern Canadian wolves. We then examined the control region of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and confirmed the presence of coyote sequences in both. However, we also found sequences in both that diverged by 150 000 – 300 000 years from sequences found in coyotes. None of the red wolves or eastern Canadian wolf samples from the 1960s contained gray wolf (Canis lupus) mtDNA sequences. The data are not consistent with the hypothesis that the eastern Canadian wolf is a subspecies of gray wolf as it is presently designated. We suggest that both the red wolf and the eastern Canadian wolf evolved in North America sharing a common lineage with the coyote until 150 000 – 300 000 years ago. We propose that it retain its original species designation, Canis lycaon.
Author(s): Paul J. Wilson, Sonya Grewal, Ian D. Lawford, Jennifer N.M. Heal, Angela G. Granacki, David Pennock, John B. Theberge, Mary T. Theberge, Dennis R. Voigt, Will Waddell, Robert E. Chambers, Paul C. Paquet, Gloria Goulet, Dean Cluff, and Bradley N. White