While a proposal made earlier this month could soon deprive the gray wolf of its protections against endangered species, a government-funded project to study supports the maintenance of the Mexican wolf’s status as an endangered subspecies.
The Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) illustrates the growing role of genomic DNA analysis in determining the status of an endangered species.
Previous studies established the canid as a subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) and proved that it did not interbreed with domestic dogs, thus weakening the case for opponents of wolf restoration.
The new report, produced by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, provided further support to these findings.
ENLARGE A captive red wolf in Tacoma, Washington.
B. Bartel / USFWS
He also established the endangered red wolf (Canis rufus), historically found throughout the eastern United States, as a distinct species from the gray wolf, but evidence from historical wolf specimens could further alter this status. .
Like the Mexican wolf, the red wolf was almost wiped out in the 20th century and partly restored through special breeding programs.
The two wolves have also been the subject of vocal opposition which raises genetic questions as the basis for removing protections.