A Pack of Wild Dogs in Texas Has the DNA of an Extinct Wolf
Thu, April 22, 2021

A Pack of Wild Dogs in Texas Has the DNA of an Extinct Wolf


Thousands of species have gone extinct, mainly due to the climate crisis and human impact. One of them is the red wolf. In 1967, the red wolves, who were native to the southeastern United States, were placed on the endangered species list. They lived in several states such as West Virginia, Florida, and Texas. 


Photo Credit: Heather Paul on Flickr


People tried to breed the red wolves in captivity, but only 40 were successfully bred as a pure red wolf. After reproducing 14 of the red wolf variety in both captivity and the wild, the breed was reintroduced to North Carolina. However, the red wolves were declared extinct in the 1980s. Since then, scientists have thought that their genes were erased from canine genetic history, until the DNA of the red wolves was found in a roving pack of feral dogs on Galveston Island, Texas.


Photo Credit: All That's Interesting


Ron Wooten, a local field biologist, had been particularly interested in a pack of small-town Texas feral dogs, which is why he sent DNA samples from the dogs to the North American Canine Ancestry Project at Princeton University. He also heard reports of the red wolf in the area before. According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, Wooten conducted an extensive cross-examination between their genes and those of related species such as coyote, gray wolf, eastern wolf, and captive red wolf. 


Photo Credit: All That's Interesting


Wooten found out that the feral pack had genes known only to exist in red wolves. “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 graduate student, said. Although the genes were not “pure red wolf,” they can be used to restore lost aspects of the species’ genetic history.



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