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 Black wolves may owe their pigment to dogs
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 02/15/2009 :  22:21:46  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This article in Science Daily speculates that maybe the black colored Grey Wolves found in North America owe their coloration to crossbreeding with now-extinct domestic dogs of Native Americans.

I find the article both interesting and flawed. At one point the article states:
Dark-coated wolves are significantly more prevalent in forested areas of the Canadian Arctic than they are in the icy tundra ( of the total population, respectively). Biologists have long suspected that something about having black fur is particularly advantageous for the woodland wolves, but they weren't sure what. Because black wolves gray with age, it seems that the root cause might be deeper than just coat color.
Then it quotes genetics professor Greg Barsh as saying:
"Wildlife biologists don't really think that wolves rely much on camouflage to protect themselves or to increase their hunting success," said Barsh. "It's possible there is something else going on here. For example, the protein responsible for the coat color difference has been implicated, in humans, in inflammation and infection, and therefore might give black animals an advantage that is distinct from its effect on pigmentation."
Seems to me that the prevalance of dark wolves in forests vs. open country (62% vs. 7%) argues very strongly for the value of dark fur as forest camouflage.

After the article's writer says (of graduate student Tovi Anderson):
She and her collaborators used a variety of genetic tests to determine that the mutation was likely introduced into wolves by dogs sometime in the last 10,000 to 15,000 years, about the same time the first Americans were migrating across the Bering land bridge.
But then the writer seems to show either sloppiness, or sudden forgetfulness of Native American origins:
Alternatively, it may have made its first appearance in a domestic dog and never entered the wild until the Native Americans migrated from Europe.
Still, there are interesting ideas there, if a bit scrambled and inconclusive.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.

Edited by - HalfMooner on 02/15/2009 22:25:17

Zebra
Skeptic Friend

USA
354 Posts

Posted - 02/15/2009 :  23:53:10   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Zebra a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Very interesting. I had never heard of "black wolves" (& the photo with the article shows they don't mean "just a little bit black").

There are 2 references in the article to the black coloration conferring a selective advantage in the forest, including this:
The effect was more than just cosmetic: the resulting black wolves, which are found nearly exclusively in North America, seem to have a selective advantage over lighter-colored wolves in forested areas. It's a rare instance of domestic animals in this case, probably the dogs of the earliest Native Americans contributing to the genetic variability of their wild counterparts in a way that affects both the recipients' appearance and survival.
But it does sound like they're a bit unclear on the direction, dating, & # of times the black-coloration gene may have appeared in wolves.

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 02/16/2009 :  02:10:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm a sucker for most anything that has dogs in it. Though without much evidence, I suspect the dog may have had a paw in humanity's evolution and in our success in the "neolithic revolution."


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 02/16/2009 :  04:20:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Oh, I very much doubt it. A wolf pack is actually a close-knit family group with only the alpha male & female breeding. They all assist in the care of litters and will kill any outside canine that approaches them, including another wolf. I think a better explanation is simply melanism in some populations; common enough in many species.




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The Rat
SFN Regular

Canada
1342 Posts

Posted - 02/16/2009 :  21:28:18   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit The Rat's Homepage Send The Rat a Private Message  Reply with Quote
A wolf pack is certainly close filthy, but in any such unit there will always be exceptions. There is, as far as I know, good evidence that wolves have occasionally interbred with coyotes, in fact I read somewhere a few years ago that the so called 'red wolf' may actually be just such a hybrid that breeds true. Here in Ontario there have been problems with 'coydogs', hybrids with domestics which have much of the coyote's wild instincts but without an instinct to keep away from tall bipeds. This brings them into conflict with livestock more often than true coyotes.

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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 02/17/2009 :  04:25:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by The Rat

A wolf pack is certainly close filthy, but in any such unit there will always be exceptions. There is, as far as I know, good evidence that wolves have occasionally interbred with coyotes, in fact I read somewhere a few years ago that the so called 'red wolf' may actually be just such a hybrid that breeds true. Here in Ontario there have been problems with 'coydogs', hybrids with domestics which have much of the coyote's wild instincts but without an instinct to keep away from tall bipeds. This brings them into conflict with livestock more often than true coyotes.
I am not saying that it can't happen nor even that it hasn't. I doubt that it has happened enough to create a hybrid.

Having lived in VT, I am quite familiar with "coy-dogs" and have even shot a few. There was a market for their fur, which in season is quite beautiful. There has long been an argument over whether they were merely an eastern coyote or a dog hybrid. I don't know if DNA tests have been done, but it seems to me that would answer the question.

Here in NC, we have a small population of red wolves that were released into the wild. They have, at last reading, become established and are doing well.

Hybridization is another tool in evolution's box, but not too effective a tool due to the frequency of "mules" in the progeny. It is thought that Cro Magnon bred with the Neandertals and the search for a hybrid homo has been going on for decades. Anyone who knows anything at all about people has no doubt that it happened, probably regularly -- we'd get off with an armadillo, if we could get one to hold still for it. Thus far, there's been some slightly odd-ball skeletons, pretty much explainable by common mutation, found but no really definitive evidence that any viable offspring has resulted from those trysts.

I admit that my reading on this topic has fallen behind. I think I'll correct that soon.




"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 02/17/2009 :  06:25:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
My reading on the subject of dog-wolf hybrids is that the offspring are almost invariably fertile. I also read in one of my books that fertile coyote-wolf hybrids are possible and even probably happen in nature, but breeding styles and seasons tend to keep the two species separate.

The black wolf is a type unique to North America. I don't see any reason it could not have been a favorable camouflage mutation that took strong root in the forests. If it came from dogs, that should be possible to prove through gene comparison. I think it's a credible idea that the coloring came from Native dogs, but an unproven one.

Also, I doubt that the Native American dogs are quite as "extinct" as the OP article implies/says. My own dog is of a Native American breed, a Chihuahua. There are the native sled dogs of the north, various Mexican Indian breeds, and (you may know these, Filthy) the Carolina Dog ("Dixie Dingo").

As a kid, I saw Indian dogs in inland Alaska fishing villages. I've seen dogs on a Northwest Indian (Quinault) reservation which did not look particularly European in origin, but as they were currently eating another dog, I did not stay around to try to puzzle out their ancestry. Among all these dogs were black examples.

I'd imagine that in some Native American communities in North America, the dog stock is pretty much the same as prior to Columbus.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 02/17/2009 06:30:07
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