What We’re Reading: Nov 20, 2015

When Do Dingos Stop Being Dingos?
Oh the messy, messy history of the dog family. Adding a new layer of complexity into the overarching story of recent divergence and anthropogenic backcrossing comes a tale from Australia’s dingos (Canis lupus dingo). A new paper (sub) measured the proportion of domestic dog in dingos across the continent. They observed higher hybridization in eastern than western Australia, but still observed it even in the isolated central range. As we noted in a previous What We’re Reading, some conservationists may be wary to protect dingos (listed as vulnerable to extinction by IUCN) due to hybridization.

Elephant Hybrids?
In a previous post, Stephanie Schuttler explained the research supporting the designation of African forest elephants as a separate species from African savanna elephants. A common question, is whether hybrids exist. Previously, very few hybrids have been found. This new study (sub) by Mondol et al. examined samples collected from areas of Africa that were previously not included and where hybrids are likely to be found. Forty-six new hybrid samples were included and identify new areas of potential hybridization: the Uganda/DRC border, Central African Republic, and in West Africa. Although hybrids are fertile, the species separation is likely promoted by habitat differences and also human factors such as poaching.

A New Use for Camera Traps in Wildlife Trade
Coat color patterns (stripes and spots) on individuals can be used as unique identifying markers. Recently Thailand confiscated a tiger skin and compared the stripe patterns to pictures from camera traps, thereby identifying that the animal was poached from within an animal sanctuary. This adds to a growing number of methods to identify poached animals including genetics and in the future unique individual vocalizations (voices and word choice).

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