Coyotes vs. Wolves as species

I don’t think everyone agrees now that dogs evolved from wolves only, and as there should be some specific traits of ancestral dogs it’s a complicated situation and before scientists thought jackal blood was also involved, don’t know what recent DNA analysis says.
Evolution has some principles and one is there’s no reverse way, so dogs shouldn’t become a wolf, they do get traits more suitable for living wild, but they can be accessed by different genetic material.


I also feel that wolves and coyotes should be regarded within C. lupus along with the other North American wolves. Former size barriers were not indicative of being distinct species yet though could have led to it, rather they were just co-occuring extremes on what I would consider the C. lupus cline; large pack-hunting wolves and a small more solitary wolf. Wolves become smaller and more coyote like in some parts of the middle east as well, and there is also a wolf in Africa that is almost identical to a jackal. The genus has readily produced smaller and larger forms over its evolutionary history and the current inter-grading of coyote and gray wolves is just another example of the species’ ease of adjusting to changing conditions.

Domestic dogs also show extreme size variation and difficulty breeding between their largest and smallest variations. Wolf packs tend to kill coyotes, and this has been used to dispute lumping them together, but also kill unfamiliar wolves and dogs, both definitely their own species, so this argument also fails.

As for domesticated dogs, there is now full consensus on gray wolf ancestry without admixture. However, they are descended from a more primitive gray wolf subspecies that is now extinct, it having given rise to both the modern gray wolf subspecies and the dog. This ancestral wolf was probably smaller and less shy than most gray wolves today, and it has been suggested that wolves before human persecution were primarily golden in color - and this is also supported by the color of mummified extinct wolves and early dogs. Gray-colored wolves may be an anthropogenic adaptation to better hide in forest and avoid hunters. Dogs remain primarily golden colored as their genetic default when other mutations are absent, which is why most feral dogs and dingos become golden, not gray.


What a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

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Actually, I’ve been searching for a research paper from the 90s and URLs have all changed, but it was about huskies having a distinct genetic markers shared with wolves, and border collies sharing a common marker with jackals. I’d be glad to be notified if someone finds the paper.

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Anything from the 90’s is extraordinarily out of date! This article has a cladogram that was done via genetic markers and shows border collies and huskies are nearly as far apart as dogs can be (huskies being primitive and border collies derived) but they all descend from one ancestor and the ancestor is a ghost lineage of gray wolf.


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