When a Wolf is a Wolf + a Coyote
Hybrids are not immediately protected under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) even though natural hybridization can lead to new species. A new paper evaluates the genomic ancestry of the Eastern Wolf (Canis lycaon) and the Red Wolf (Canis rufus), both thought to have admixed ancestry between the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) and the Coyote (Canis latrans). The ESA protects the Red Wolf but not the Eastern Wolf; further, population growth of Eastern Wolves is being cited as a reason to delist the Gray Wolf (e.g. remove protection granted by its status as endangered with extinction). This genomic analysis shows that there were independent admixture events between Gray Wolves and Coyotes which led to the Eastern and Red, but in different admixture proportions. The authors argue that the ESA should be modernized to take realistic biological scenarios, such as admixture, into account when deciding which populations to protect, as the ecological function of individuals is more important than genomic purity.
Camera Trappers can be Conservation Advocates
New paper from the eMammal team, the citizen science camera trapping project that WildlifeSNPits blogger Stephanie Schuttler works on. This study looked at how collecting data and uploading camera trap images on local mammals affects the attitudes of the participants towards local mammal species. As the volunteer are self-selected and therefore were already enthusiastic about conservation, the program did not change attitudes. However, participants were more likely to share their new knowledge of mammals after participation, becoming conservation advocates. The types of photos they uploaded influenced their likelihood to share knowledge and predator photos were found to be positively associated with spreading conservation messages. This study also found that volunteers accurately identified most species (>90%) and therefore prove to be a promising resource for large-scale collection of mammal data.