One pack of wild “canines” carries the DNA of the red wolf, declared extinct in the wild: (the photo is of a red wolf by Laggedon User (CC BY-SA 2.0))
The finding has led wildlife biologists and others to develop a new understanding that the red wolf DNA is remarkably resilient after decades of human hunting, loss of habitat and other factors had led the animal to near decimation.
“Overall, it’s incredibly rare to rediscover animals in a region where they were thought to be extinct and it’s even more exciting to show that a piece of an endangered genome has been preserved in the wild,” said Elizabeth Heppenheimer, a Princeton University biologist involved in the research on the pack found on Galveston Island in Texas. The work of the Princeton team was published in the scientific journal Genes.
The genetic analysis found that the Galveston canines appear to be a hybrid of red wolf and coyote, but Heppenheimer cautions that without additional testing, it’s difficult to label the animal. David Warren, “DNA of wolf declared extinct in wild lives on in Texas pack” at phys.org
Actually, it is widely suspected that the red wolf is, generally, a hybrid of wolf and coyote that appears from time to time and thus can’t go extinct unless one of the two parent groups does.
If breeders chose to work with the hybrid animals, they could doubtless bring a particular red wolf pack back from “extinction” in a way we can’t bring the tyrannosaur back from extinction. But then what are we talking about when we use the term “extinction” in this case?
The whole story points up the problem with the current concept of speciation
See also: Speciation: Red Wolf Not “Endangered”; A Hybrid?
A physicist looks at biology’s problem of “speciation” in humans
Extinction (or maybe not): New Scientist offers five “Lazarus species”
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