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DNA profiles of the eastern Canadian wolf and the red wolf provide evidence for a common evolutionary history independent of the gray wolf

Publication: Canadian Journal of Zoology
December 2000


The origin and taxonomy of the red wolf (Canis rufus) have been the subject of considerable debate and it has been suggested that this taxon was recently formed as a result of hybridization between the coyote and gray wolf. Like the red wolf, the eastern Canadian wolf has been characterized as a small "deer-eating" wolf that hybridizes with coyotes (Canis latrans). While studying the population of eastern Canadian wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park we recognized similarities to the red wolf, based on DNA profiles at 8 microsatellite loci. We examined whether this relationship was due to similar levels of introgressed coyote genetic material by comparing the microsatellite alleles with those of other North American populations of wolves and coyotes. These analyses indicated that it was not coyote genetic material which led to the close genetic affinity between red wolves and eastern Canadian wolves. We then examined the control region of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and confirmed the presence of coyote sequences in both. However, we also found sequences in both that diverged by 150 000 - 300 000 years from sequences found in coyotes. None of the red wolves or eastern Canadian wolf samples from the 1960s contained gray wolf (Canis lupus) mtDNA sequences. The data are not consistent with the hypothesis that the eastern Canadian wolf is a subspecies of gray wolf as it is presently designated. We suggest that both the red wolf and the eastern Canadian wolf evolved in North America sharing a common lineage with the coyote until 150 000 - 300 000 years ago. We propose that it retain its original species designation, Canis lycaon.


Les origines et la taxonomie du Loup roux (Canis rufus) font l'objet d'une controverse importante et une hypothèse a été émise, à savoir qu'il s'agit d'un taxon récent issu de l'hybridation entre le Coyote et le Loup gris. Comme le Loup roux, le Loup de l'est du Canada est décrit comme un petit loup « mangeur de cerfs » qui s'hybride avec le Coyote (Canis latrans). L'étude de la population de Loups de l'est du Canada dans le parc provincial Algonquin nous a permis de reconnaître des similarités avec le Loup roux d'après les profils d'ADN à 8 locus microsatellites. Nous avons tenté de déterminer si cette relation était due à des degrés semblables d'introgression de matériel génétique en comparant les allèles microsatellites avec ceux d'autres populations nord-américaines de loups et de coyotes. Les analyses ont révélé que ce n'est pas du matériel génétique de coyote qui a mené à la grande affinité génétique entre le Loup roux et le Loup de l'est du Canada. Nous avons ensuite examiné la région de contrôle de l'ADN mitochondrial (ADNmt) et confirmé la présence de séquences du Coyote chez les deux loups. Cependant, nous avons également trouvé des séquences qui divergent de celles des coyotes par un écart de l'ordre de 150 000 - 300 000 années. Aucun des Loups roux ou des Loups de l'est du Canada échantillonnés au cours des années 1960 ne comptait de séquences d'ADNmt du Loup gris (Canis lupus). Les données n'appuient pas l'hypothèse selon laquelle le Loup de l'est du Canada est une sous-espèce du Loup gris, tel qu'on le reconnaît maintenant. Nous croyons que le Loup roux et le Loup de l'est du Canada ont évolué conjointement en Amérique du Nord, suivant une lignée commune avec le Coyote jusqu'à il y a 150 000 - 300 000 ans. Nous proposons de garder au Loup de l'est du Canada son nom scientifique actuel, Canis lycaon.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

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cover image Canadian Journal of Zoology
Canadian Journal of Zoology
Volume 78Number 12December 2000
Pages: 2156 - 2166


Version of record online: 15 February 2011


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