Don't hate the hybrid!

By Razib Khan | November 21, 2011 4:44 am

There is a specter haunting the intersection of conservation biology and public policy, the specter of the biological species concept. Coyote-Wolf Hybrids Have Spread Across U.S. East:

Scientists already knew that some coyotes, which have been gradually expanding their range eastward, mated with wolves in the Great Lakes (map) region. The pairings created viable hybrid offspring—identified by their DNA and skulls—that have been found in mid-Atlantic states such as New York and Pennsylvania.

Now, new DNA analysis of coyote poop shows for the first time that some coyotes in the state of Virginia are also part wolf. Scientists think these animals are coyote-wolf hybrids that traveled south from New England along the Appalachian Mountains.

Most of the wolf ancestry in the lower 48 states might be in “coyotes!”

MORE ABOUT: Hybridization

Comments (3)

  1. dave chamberlin

    The midwest, where I live had a terrible overpopulation of canadian geese and deer. The pure coyotes moved in about eight years ago and the candian geese population crashed, it is now controlled by the coyotes. The coyotes are definitely getting bigger (why I don’t know) and are now preying on young and weak deer. I am looking forward to driving by my local forest preserve and not seeing every scrap of vegetation within the reach of a deers mouth munched away during the summer. I would far rather have hybidized coyotes control the deer population than wolves or moutain lions, neither of which fair well in densly populated areas like coyotes do. Although I must admit my attitude might change quickly if one carries off my little fluffy white dog.

  2. Paul

    With all the white tail deer that are around now (up by a factor of 50 since 1900, I think?), I’m not surprised wolfish coyotes would be prospering.

  3. This story is, as you suspected, a load of baloney. There has always been a cline between wolves and coyotes, the red wolf being the middle of the cline, just as there has always been a cline between whites and blacks, the upper nile being the middle of the cline.

    Darwin told us that because evolution is happening all the time everywhere continuously at roughly constant speed, speciation is happening all the time everywhere, so there is no hard and fast line between race differences and species differences. This, however, became politically incorrect in 1972

    Darwin explained that calling one kind a different race, and another kind a different species, was not a fact about nature, but merely a fact about language, a fact where we somewhat arbitrarily draw sharp lines on natures continuum.

    The genetic differences between living human races are smaller than the differences between men and chimps, but they are not a whole lot smaller. That blacks and whites are the two races and not two species is not a fact about nature, but an arbitrary decision that Darwin made about classification and terminology: He told us that either classification was valid, but because the cline was so large, “race” was more convenient. So race it is.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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