What do you get when you mix a wolf, a coyote, and a dog? A coywolf and scientists are not yet sure whether they should categorize this hybrid between the three animals as a new species. The coywolf is majority coyote with a mix of wolves and dogs in their DNA.
How did this happen? I always thought different species of animals don’t mate with each other, and if they were to, then the hybrid offspring will be sterile like the ligers (lions and tigers) or mules (horses and donkeys). This emergence of a new species of animal similar to the wolf, coyote, and dog is a direct effect from the human anthropocene, a theory that proposes that human activities have had significant global impacts on our world’s geology and ecosystems.
The coywolf originated from the northeastern part of the US back in the early 1900s. When humans started to invade into the coyote and wolf territories, the coyotes and wolves had no choice to leave their homes in search of better habitats. Along the way, the coyotes and wolves started to mate with each other and as these initial hybrids came to be, they were introduced to the dogs that humans brought with them with their expansions.
The byproduct of such a mix? Usually, such genetic mixtures result in detrimental mixtures such as the liger example earlier mentioned. Ligers are bigger and stronger than tigers and lions, but they are much slower and less agile which results in them not being able to hunt for their own food. But in this case with the coywolf, the genetic mixture brought about a superior breed of coyotes.
These new “coyotes” are almost two times bigger than the average coyote. The have bigger jaws and paws which allow them to start hunting bigger game. They have been known to hunt deer and even a moose is not safe from these coywolves. Moreover, coyotes prefer and open plains area for their home while wolves prefer forests and woody areas. Due to the mix of the two, the coywolf thrives in both the open plains and the forests. Also, their advantage is they also have about 10 percent dog in their DNA which makes them much more adapted to life in the city with humans. They have been known to look both ways before crossing the road and there has not been any known cases of a coywolf actively attacking a human.
Scientists ran a study with over 400 coywolves and they have been found to be about 65% wolf, 25% coyote, and 10% dog. There are already millions of them in North America and scientists are slowly finding more and more specific characteristics to classify them as a new species.
The case of the coywolf is an amazing contemporary evolution story that is happening right under our noses. So next time you see a coyote in your neighborhood, maybe they are not coyotes but rather the new coywolf!