DNA of wolf de­clared ex­tinct in wild lives on

The Republican Herald - - LOCAL - By DAVID WAR­REN

DAL­LAS — Re­searchers said a pack of wild ca­nines found frol­ick­ing near the beaches of the Texas Gulf Coast car­ries a sub­stan­tial amount of red wolf genes, a sur­pris­ing dis­cov­ery be­cause the an­i­mal was de­clared ex­tinct in the wild nearly 40 years ago.

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,” El­iz­abeth Hep­pen­heimer, a Prince­ton Univer­sity bi­ol­o­gist in­volved in the re­search on the pack found on Galve­ston Is­land in Texas, said. The work of the Prince- ton 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.

Ron Suther­land, a North Carolina- based con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tist with the Wild­lands Net­work, said it’s ex­cit­ing to have found “this unique and fas­ci­nat­ing medium- sized wolf.” The sur­vival of the red wolf genes “with­out much help from us for the last 40 years is won­der­ful news,” said Suther­land, who was not in­volved in the Prince­ton study.

The dis­cov­ery co­in­cides with sim­i­lar DNA find­ings in wild ca­nines in south­west­ern Louisiana and bol­sters the hopes of con­ser­va­tion­ists dis­mayed by the dwin­dling num­ber of red wolves in North Carolina that com­prised the only known pack in the wild.


The par­ents of a red wolf pup keep an eye on their off­spring at the Mu­seum of Life and Sci­ence in Durham, N. C.

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