Evaluating the Taxonomic Status of the Mexican Gray Wolf and the Red Wolf
June 30, 2019
Taxonomy—the scientific study of biological classification—enables scientists to name and group living organisms. However, because species are dynamic and not fixed entities, taxonomic designations are often debated. At any given time, different populations can be in different stages in the process of species formation or dissolution. In many cases, hybridization (i.e., mating with other species and producing offspring) may be introducing genes from one species to another. In 2018, Congress directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to obtain an independent assessment of the taxonomic status of the red wolf and the Mexican gray wolf. Currently, FWS considers the red wolf a valid taxonomic species and the Mexican gray wolf a valid taxonomic subspecies. Both wolves are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. This report assesses the taxonomic status of the Mexican gray wolf and the red wolf based on an evaluation of multiple types of data, including morphological and paleontological evidence, evidence of genetic and genomic distinctiveness, and ecological and behavioral evidence.
Author(s): Joseph Travis, Fred W. Allendorf, Diane K. Boyd, Liliana Cortés-Ortiz, Lori S. Eggert, Diane Genereux, Michael Lynch, Jesús E. Maldonado, Rasmus Nielsen, Keegan Sawyer, Camilla Ables, Jenna Briscoe