Great Lakes boreal wolf

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Great Lakes boreal wolf
Female Gray Wolf (6045673957).jpg
Gray wolf (C. lupus)
Washtenaw County's last wolf (1907).jpg
Eastern wolf (C. lycaon)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. lupus x C. lycaon

Great Lakes boreal wolf is an informal term used to describe canid hybrids between gray wolves and eastern wolves and possibly coyotes to mild extents. Introgression of gray wolf genes into eastern wolf populations has occurred across northern Ontario, into Manitoba and Quebec, as well as into the western Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.[1] Introgressions of coyotes into eastern wolf populations have also occurred in southern Ontario, Quebec, and all over the Great Lakes states. While gray wolves in the northern states do not directly mate with coyotes, it was long suspected that the eastern wolves who mixed with the gray wolves in the boreal forests may have also had coyote introgressions from past hybridizations with earlier coyote populations thus resulting with the coyote genes transmitted into the Great Lakes boreal wolves who in turn have the ability to further transmit these coyote genes into other gray wolf populations.[2]

The boreal wolf is 25% larger than a pure eastern wolf, and typically has a similarly colored gray-fawn coat but, unlike the eastern wolf, can also be black, cream, or white. It also specalises on larger prey such as moose and reindeer rather than white-tailed deer. Unlike pure eastern wolves, Great Lakes boreal wolves primarily inhabit boreal rather than deciduous forests.[2]

Evolution can act on populations and sometimes these evolutionary forces are capable of implementing novel traits into a subspecies. Beneficial traits coding for larger size, a stronger bite, even faster mobility and larger areas of habitation might be selectively advantageous for a species that continually competes for the available resources, occupation of territory and the ability to find a mate. The species of wolf containing the most novel genes will have greater fitness and thereby natural selection is what keeps those genes within the population. In studying evolution, it is understood that the exchange of genes by way of sexual reproduction between subspecies allows for extensive diversity. This diversity becomes the genetic source of information often used to explain a species’ adaptations and overall fitness. Gene introgression deals heavily with producing situations where hybridization is the primary source of genetic variation. Genetic introgression between coyotes, eastern wolves, Great Lakes boreal wolf and the grey wolf analyzed through mitochondrial phylogenies suggest high rates of hybridization (Roland K, et al 2009).Hybridization in some instances is thought to have directed speciation by altering the genome structure enough where some linages of the ancestral Grey Wolf may become reproductively isolated. However this level of speciation is not observed with respect to the Great Lakes boreal wolf. Many populations of wolves have been studied to produce viable offspring often times with a variety subspecies including coyotes that are able to occupy the same ecological niche. The introgression of genes explains how genetic information is integrated from one species to another through the process of back-crossing. Back-crossing in this sense is the mating of a hybrid offspring with an individual belonging to the parental generation. The hybrid of a boreal wolf with a coyote that later mates with the descendent of the grey wolf produces this type of backcross. Evidence for hybridization has been correlated to larger skull and body size, increased sexual dimorphism and greater colonization of the hybrid offspring. The variation of traits and adaptive behavioral patterns better suit this species which can increase the probability of successful hunting towards much larger prey and occupation of various niches once left unpopulated (Roland K, et al 2009).



  1. ^ Rutledge, L. Y. (May 2010). Evolutionary origins, social structure, and hybridization of the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon), [thesis], Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
  2. ^ a b Chambers SM, Fain SR, Fazio B, Amaral M (2012). "An account of the taxonomy of North American wolves from morphological and genetic analyses". North American Fauna 77: 1–67. doi:10.3996/nafa.77.0001. Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  3. ^ Wayne, R.K., Jenks S.M.. Mitochondrial DNA analysis implying extensive hybridization of the endangered red wolf Canis rufus. Nature 351, 565 - 568 (13 June 1991); Doi:10.1038/351565a0 [Accessed 10/28/14]. Kays R., Curtis A. and Kirchman J. Rapid adaptive evolution of northeastern coyotes via hybridization with wolves. Biol. Lett. April 23, 2010 6 2 248-249; published ahead of print January 20, 2010 doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.1022 1744-957X. [Accessed 10/26/14].

External links[edit]

Great Lakes boreal wolf (Canis lupus x lycaon), Wolf and Coyote DNA Bank @ Trent University