Scientists reportedly learned that a newly discovered species already has numbers in the millions (video below).
Within the last century or two, dwindling wolf populations in eastern North America caused wolves to crossbreed with other species as wolf habitats were being fundamentally altered by humans, The Economist reports. Wolves would reportedly crossbreed with coyotes and farmers’ dogs they came across because there were fewer of their own kind.
Because of this, scientists have discovered the surprisingly quick growth of a species that was only recently found, and the results of this crossbreeding are reportedly "amazing."
While many times cross-species breeding results in weaker offspring, the new species that emerged is reportedly more advanced in almost every way.
Dr. Roland Kays of North Carolina State University described this to The Economist as an “amazing contemporary evolution story that’s happening right underneath our nose.”
According to Kays, there are estimated to be millions of what they call "coywolves" populating eastern North America. The original home of the coywolf is southern Ontario, though the species has spread to the south.
Evolution biologist Javier Monzon of Pepperdine University in California analyzed the DNA of 437 coywolves and found that the genes were about 65 percent coyote, 25 percent wolf, and 10 percent dog.
Coywolves weigh twice as much as coyotes and are able to hunt deer on their own, plus moose with the help of others, thanks to enlarged jaws and increased muscle. Their call is part howl and part yip, which is reminiscent of both wolves and coyotes.
The species has also evolved to adapt to their environment. Coyotes tend to prefer open spaces, while wolves prefer forestry, but the coywolves have been found to do well in both. Coywolves have also been found in urban settings such as New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. They have reportedly been observed looking both ways before crossing the street in a city.
Jonathan Way, founder of Eastern Coyote/Coywolf Research and the author of Suburban Howls, said that the hybrid animal is so unique that it should be classified as its own species, according to RT. However, some scientists argue that a species is defined by its inability to reproduce with other species. Since coywolves still mate with both coyotes and wolves, that may disqualify them from being classified as their own species.
This also brings up the question of whether coyotes and wolves should be classified as their own species as they are the genetic parents of coywolves. A debate over the coywolf’s classification is sure to ensue.