Home » Intelligent Design » Coffee! Evolution in action? Or do wolves and coyotes just desperately need sex ed?

Coffee! Evolution in action? Or do wolves and coyotes just desperately need sex ed?

The one on the left is a coyote and the one on the right is a wolf. Hybrids can be anywhere in between.
Does anyone remember when “speciation” meant something? Here’s an item from the Toronto news: “Meet the coywolf: A newly emerging species is behind the brazen attacks in Durham”:

The predators that are plaguing Durham Region and showing up in urban areas appear to be an emerging species resulting from wolves and coyotes interbreeding.

The larger, highly adaptable animals “have the wolf characteristics of pack hunting and aggression and the coyote characteristics of lack of fear of human-developed areas,” says Trent University geneticist Bradley White, who’s been studying the hybrids for 12 years.

We’re seeing “evolution in action,” he says.

But that combination of genetic material from both species has spelled trouble for farmers, who are losing a growing number of livestock to predators. (August 15, 2009)

Star writer Carola Vyhnak, urban affairs reporter, was informed that this is an example of a new species forming, in other words, “evolution in action.” Not so in this case. This is a hybrid.

Wolves and coyotes have always had the ability to interbreed, producing a coywolf. They usually won’t if they have the choice of their own kind. But wolf elimination programs probably force the remaining wolves to hit on coyotes. Among canines generally, the rule seems to be “If yer not with the one ya love, ya love the one yer with! Yap! Yap! Yap!

Maybe sex ed would teach them to look for the right mates. But the program has been stalled because farmers are demanding that they be given abstinence education instead, pronto.

Incidentally, there are also coydogs and wolfdogs.

Note: These animals do not make good pets. They were born wild and they like it. People who want a pet should adopt a friendly shelter dog who really wants to live with people.

A link with great photos of wild canines around the world.

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23 Responses to Coffee! Evolution in action? Or do wolves and coyotes just desperately need sex ed?

  1. Will the moderators be approving my comments in the other threads so that I can respond to those contributors who have tried to engage me in a discussion?

  2. Coffee!

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,546422,00.html

    Unfortunately, no scientists are being allowed to help in the investigation since intelligent design is not scientific. The head investigator was quoted as saying, “No court will buy our design inference because it employs an arsonist-of-the-gaps argument, so we are going to have to come up with eye witnesses or we’re dead in the water.”

  3. Wolfdogs are gorgeous; they’re generally a blend of Alaskan malamute and wolf (my friend used to breed malamutes and told me this).

    I have a malamute myself, which I am happy to say I adopted three years ago from the local humane society.

    Emerging species? What a laugh. A coyote and wolf produce a coywolf. A wolf and dog produce a wolfdog. That’s simple interspecies breeding. It doesn’t prove that eventually, given enough time and random mutations, a wolfdog will eventually become something else entirely (i.e., a reptilian creature).

  4. Your right Barb. But whenever they spout nonsense like this they are just creating another chapter in their never ending story.

  5. I was going to say that hybrids such as the coywolf are evidence for UCD, insofar as they are evidence for the relatedness of the species in question. Other cool hybrids are the wholphin and the liger (yes, the latter is the one mentioned in Napolean Dynamite).

    Then I saw this post, which states “If Darwinian evolution predicts anything at all, other than grants for its promoters and persecution for its doubters, it should predict that such an event as the beefalo does not happen, yet it does.”

    In reality, as far as I can tell, the only trouble that hybrids cause for evolution is that it makes cladistics messy. However, having life always and only occur in distinct “species” is not a prediction of evolution at all — rather, the prediction is of speciation in general, with a scattered number of “in-between” situations like the coywolf. (Or, further down the line to the point of non-fertility, the mule).

  6. Something that wouldn’t make any sense for evolution would be a coylephant (or a crocoduck, or a merperson). Some would say that the platypus (any others, I’m wondering?) is indeed such a chimera. Some would disagree.

  7. O’Leary wrote

    “Star writer Carola Vyhnak, urban affairs reporter, was informed that this is an example of a new species forming, in other words, “evolution in action.” Not so in this case. This is a hybrid.”

    I would agree it’s a hybrid, but that doesn’t mean that the statement – “an example of a new species forming” – is wrong. The definition of a species most commonly used these days is that it is a population that is reproductively isolated from other populations – so if this particluar coywolf population ceases to breed with wolves and coyotes (even if they are still theoretically capable of doing so, biologically) then they will indeed become a new species.

    The term “species” needs to be used with caution, though – it’s a human invention used for classification purposes, not an actual reflection of biology. The definition doesn’t really help at all with creatures that don’t reproduce sexually – i.e. “reproductively isolated” is essentially meaningless – and even for sexually reproducing creatures, they fall on a genetic continuum (and hence there can be interbreeding, such as with the coywolf, between species that lie close together on that continuum) rather than being entirely discrete entities such as is implied by the term “species”.

  8. Lenoxus, hybridization of canids (dog type species) doesn’t disprove universal common descent (UCD), but it does demonstrate the difficulty of new species forming.

    Related species tend to move in and out of each others’ lives, as the canids and felids (cat type species) do, depending on the ecology.

    That is what seems to have happened here.

    Darwin claimed to know how new species form, but we see remarkably little of that here, so it is tough to tell. We do see plenty of hybrids, especially when an ecology changes.

    Darwin would likely think that the beef and the buffalo had diverged to far to produce a beefalo, but apparently not. That’s the problem with his idea. We see so little evidence of it at work.

  9. O’Leary:

    Darwin would likely think that the beef and the buffalo had diverged to far to produce a beefalo, but apparently not. That’s the problem with his idea.

    Besides the testimony of Hypothetical Darwin, is there any real reason why biologists would have thought, before putting it to the test, that buffallo and cattle had diverged too much to interbreed? It seems like there’s a lacking initial prediction of non-fecundity in order for the beefalo to be evidence against evolutionary biology. (Or “post-diction”, based on genetic comparison — if it were discovered that cattle and buffalo DNA were as different from each other as birds from fish, then their interbreeding would indeed be perplexing).

  10. Barb, the Malamute is a wonderful dog. A Malamute type dog tops the coat of arms of the Yukon.

    But – and this is a common misunderstanding, so don’t sweat it – his physical resemblance to his wolf cousins should not be taken for a psychological resemblance. Dogs have lived with people for thousands of years, especially in North America, where they were the only significant companion animal before the arrival of the horse from the Old World. Dogs can usually adjust to life in a calm human household quite easily. Generally, by contrast, wolves are wary and shy, or else aggressive. They just don’t really want much to do with people. This gives some idea of what a real wolfdog is like.

  11. O’Leary

    That’s the problem with his idea. We see so little evidence of it at work.

    What, his idea that species evolve? But they do, don’t they?

    And despite this “trouble” with his idea it seems to be doing quite well regardless. Why do you suppose that is?

  12. Lenoxus, continued hybridization of beef and buff argues against the easy formation of new species, when I constantly hear that the point is that we know they are new species when they can’t interbreed.

    Cattle and buffalo look very different. That is what made the beefalo so interesting.

  13. O’Leary (11),

    “Lenoxus, continued hybridization of beef and buff argues against the easy formation of new species, when I constantly hear that the point is that we know they are new species when they can’t interbreed.”

    Hybridization of cattle and buffalo argue no such thing at all. They are very closely related, so it’s hardly a surprise they can still interbreed. One could just as easily argue the other way and say that the difficulty of the hybridized offspring of horses and donkeys in reproducing (and similarly for the offspring of lions and tigers) actually points to the rapid speciation of mammals.

  14. O’Leary:

    Lenoxus, continued hybridization of beef and buff argues against the easy formation of new species, when I constantly hear that the point is that we know they are new species when they can’t interbreed.

    Well, a fair amount of this hybridization happens as a direct or indirect result of human activity; the species in question would prefer to remain separate — this appears to be a preceder of many speciation “events” (“events” in quotes because it’s a slow process that can’t be pinpointed to one moment). So in that sense, the hybridization is not so “easy”.

    Your OP said “Does anyone remember when “speciation” meant something?” I ask you, can you not imagine wolves and coyotes ever diverging to the point that their offspring would be sterile? (I suddenly wonder, could a wolf and a chihuahua hybridize?) Is there any biological reason for thinking that couldn’t happen — something to do with genetic entropy or something?

    Cattle and buffalo look very different. That is what made the beefalo so interesting.

    For many species, the males and females look very different. This makes them interesting, too!

  15. Lenoxus, I suppose some species can diverge to the point of no longer being interfertile, but I doubt it would happen with wolves, coyotes, and dogs. There just isn’t that much separating them.

    If dogs ran wild, the Bassett hounds and chihuahuas – artistic human creations with no relevance to natural selection – would simply disappear. You would soon have a creature something like a wolfhound or dingo, likely interfertile with wolves and coyotes: (“If yer not with the one ya love … etc.”)

    Also, while it is true that the beefalo is a human creation, it is not clear, at least to me, that it could not have happened naturally, had wild cattle and bison buffalo shared a range, unsupervised.

    Apparently, beefalo are fertile, but that wouldn’t necessarily lead to a new species, because they are probably interfertile with both parent species as well.

    These hybrid arrangements may protect sturdy life forms from unnecessary extinctions or extirpations. They have a number of possible breeding paths. They will not end up, like Gonzo, getting kicked out of the Ark in the Space Muppets Movie, because he had no mate.

  16. ID predicts that if species are designed by an intelligent designer, they will be distinct and unable to interbreed. Otherwise why design species in the first place?

    Darwinian evolution, on the other hand, predicts that this sort of wolf-coyote-dog thing will happen periodically until the ur-species have finally evolved far enough apart so that genes for some vital system no longer mesh properly.

  17. Darwin recognized the problem with closley-related species hybridizing, pointing out the difference between species and variety was often arbitrary.

    As Lenoxus pointed out, many closely-related sympatric species remain reproductively isolated by behavior, and by doing so maintain their morphological distinctness without necessarily developing hybrid sterility/inviability. Whether we call these populations subspecies of one overarching species or indvidual species is purely arbitrary. The fact dogs and wolves can successfully interbreed doesn’t change the fact that neither of them can successfully breed with cats or artichokes, and is fully consistent with common ancestry.

    In other words, there is no controversy to see here, folks. Move along.

  18. Dave Wisker and Lenoxus,

    The Toronto Star reporter was informed that she was seeing “evolution in action” and happily passed on the happy news to her readers, when she was really only seeing hybridization in action.

    And Darwinists wonder why people don’t believe them. Based on thousands of incidents like these, quite honestly, no one should.

    I do not know how new species form, but in general, the wild North American canids are probably a dead end for that sort of thing.

    So, on to the next example.

  19. I think that IDers are going to have to get used to people conflating “evolution” and common descent (and hence the opposition to one with opposition to the other) for a long, long time.

    I do not know how new species form, but in general, the wild North American canids are probably a dead end for that sort of thing.

    Yeah, canids don’t show much genetic variety at all. Maybe we should try our luck with parrots or something? Chihuahuas are nothing, let’s see some real diversification. I’ll bet we could breed a parrot with a third wing in a hundred years! That’s totally how evolution works.

  20. djmullen says:

    ID predicts that if species are designed by an intelligent designer, they will be distinct and unable to interbreed. Otherwise why design species in the first place?

    I’ve never seen this argument used by any IDist (or even creationist). Can you quote a source making this prediction?

    Species are geared to survive. Gene pool flexibility provides that.

  21. Mrs O’Leary,

    The Toronto Star reporter was informed that she was seeing “evolution in action” and happily passed on the happy news to her readers, when she was really only seeing hybridization in action.

    I don’t see your objection, since evolution is just change in allele frequencies over time, and hybridization is one way to accomplish that. The ressearch White participates in shows wolves and coyotes separating very recently, less than 500,000 years ago.

    If The Toronto Star’s intrepid reporter had been told she was seeing speciation in action, I might agree with you, since it is not clear there is a separate breeding population here as opposed to chance encounters. Certainly this is also not Darwinism in action, since there are no increased tendencies for coywolves to join the Arayan Nations. ;)

    The funnier quote in that Star article was the biologist who couldn’t see how an 80 pound coywolf could bring down a 900 pound steer. As if weighing 900 pounds made the steer invulnerable to pack hunting or getting bit in the jugular vein.

  22. Nakashima-san, you are quite right. I think all of us can agree that evolution happens and can be seen.

    The question is where is the edge :-)

  23. In mammals and other “higher order” species, “species is easily defined, but what about unicellular organisms? A friend showed an article which shows speciation in malaria, but they only use mitochondrial cytochrome b sequencing to determine phylogeny. I know that when different genes are sequenced, a different “tree” is obtained and they are inconsistent, meaning the claim for speciation has not been proved. I have only seen mi cyt b sequencing. Are there any other experiments in which other genes have been sequenced to determine phylogeny? I read this one articel “LINKAGE BETWEEN NUCLEAR AND MITOCHONDRIAL DNA SEQUENCES IN AVIAN MALARIA PARASITES: MULTIPLE CASES OF CRYPTIC SPECIATION?”, but am not sure what to make of it. Species is very poorly defined. I will read it again and see if I have missed soemthing. What would your response be if this was cited as evidence of speciation?

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