The US Geological Survey (USGS) announced on Thursday that scientists at a Utah facility successfully produced hybrid pups from a male western gray wolf and a female western coyote. The success will contribute new information to the debate over whether the eastern wolf, a hybrid animal found only in North America, is a legitimate species. The findings were published in the journal PLOS One.

“Our findings leave the eastern wolf debate open by adding further merit to the hybrid theory rather than disproving it,” said USGS Scientist David Mech. “However, the findings are applicable to captive animals and are not necessarily true under natural conditions, so the counter-hybrid theory is not disproved either.”

USGS researchers worked with partners from the St. Louis Zoo, University of California, Davis and Wildlife Science Center to see if captive coyotes and wolves were able to produce offspring. In the 2012 and 2013 study, nine female coyotes were inseminated with sperm from eight different male wolves. Three of the coyotes became pregnant and one birthed six live and healthy pups.

Some geneticists have long denied that the eastern wolf was a result of hybridization, but is rather a smaller form of the western gray wolf. The scientific community is split between those who believe the eastern wolf should be recognized as a distinct species and those who disagree. Eastern wolves are smaller and skinnier than their western counterparts, and recent research shows the animals live in much closer proximity to coyotes than wolves do.

“Our study adds one more piece to the ongoing controversy over whether the eastern wolf is a valid species,” Mech said.

Image from D. Gordon E. Robertson on the Wikimedia Commons

What's Your Reaction?

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry
  • shiloh

    I’ve seen reports that coyotes and wolves had been interbreeding in Eastern US. Is this true?

  • Laura Ʊ Burdine

    Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Horrible and irresponsible. below post very true, a super coyote that spreads across the country will be a huge problem for livestock and wildlife….these hybrids should never be allowed into the wild. If they want to do something responsible for animal kingdom, how about use money and resources to stop humans from killing off elephants for tusks and saving the other animals that humans are killing off who need saving, rather than killing more wildlife to a super species, manmade, that was never intended to walk the earth.

    • Scott

      I’m sure the people doing this particular study don’t have the knowledge base to help with elephant tusks and the grant money I’m sure they used was probably earmarked for specific research purposes… As far as releasing the animals into the wild, the research is on an existing species or subspecies (google coywolf) to determine its origins. I doubt the test animals will ever be released into the wild though.

  • Lawrence Green

    What’s to be done with the 6 pups? What is the point in producing a new species through artificial means? Maybe we could release them to add to the already over populated predator problem in Utah.

  • yelrdog13

    Bad move! No need! That is not what our money should be used for. Nature can decide.