Borrowed Gene Blackens Wolves

North American gray wolves that crisscross the frozen tundra after migrating caribou tend to be light colored, blending in with snow and ice. But dark wolves are common in forests, possibly because there they can slink through the woods unnoticed. Geneticists have pinpointed the gene variant that imparts this black fur and determined that it comes from domestic dogs that interbred with their wily cousins thousands of years ago.

cool. more here.

Comments

  1. #1 Lilian Nattel
    February 7, 2009

    That is very cool–and it also suddenly makes the picture of migrating people more vivid. I never thought of the animals that would have come with them.

  2. #2 Cal Harth
    February 7, 2009

    I’ve been hearing stories all my life about wolf-dog or coyote-dog hybrids. I was born a sceptic and dismissed most as rural Minnesota BS. I have seen a few animals that did look to me as maybe really being hybrids.
    Black wolves are really strikingly beautiful animals and stand out visually from other wolves that they are with. I have to wonder if it may give them some advantage in competition for alpha male status.
    Has anyone ever calculated the genetic overlap between wolves and dogs? It is probably exceeds the overlap we have with chimpanzees.
    The relationships that people have with dogs is amazing. When the Aborigines crossed to Australia about 40 thousand years ago dogs rode with them in the boats. Who domesticated whom?
    Cal

  3. #3 windy
    February 8, 2009

    When the Aborigines crossed to Australia about 40 thousand years ago dogs rode with them in the boats.

    That’s unlikely, dingos were brought to Australia only about 4000 years ago. If the earliest humans brought other dogs there is little trace of them.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    February 8, 2009

    We do not really know when the dingo went to Australia. Genetic data suggests, depending on how you look at it, that domestication of the dog (generally speaking) may be many tens of thousands of years ago (and yes, there is quite a bit of DNA analysis including wolves and dogs) but the earliest archaeological evidence for domesticated dogs is about 10K ago. This is not surprizing, that dogs would have been domesticated for a very long time before the first physical remains.

    The oldest dingo remains in Australia are probably about 3,000 years ago. The genetic evidence indicates a split with other dogs at about 5K according to some studies. I’m not looking at any actual data this second (actually, I’m looking at my first cup of coffee) so I reserve the right to revise this later.

    Oh, I’ll also add this: Dog coyote hybrids are unlikely and probably don’t happen. Dogs are wolves. All the same species, by one way of looking at it.

  5. #5 windy
    February 8, 2009

    Oh, I’ll also add this: Dog coyote hybrids are unlikely and probably don’t happen.

    It happens, see for example:

    Adams JR, JA Leonard and LP Waits. 2003. Widespread occurrence of a domestic dog mitochondrial DNA haplotype in southeastern US coyotes. Molecular Ecology 12: 541-546.