The red wolf - question What s hould we protect If the...

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The red wolf was placed into a captive breeding program in 1974. By 1975 it was extinct in the wild. Early data suggested that red wolves hybridized with coyotes. Since coyote populations do well in human- disturbed habitats, hybridization may have affected the survival of the red wolf. Wayne & Jenks studied the mitochondrial DNA from captive red wolves and from 77 animals collected from the wild during the capture program. They also used the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to sequence mitochondrial DNA from museum skins ("ancient DNA techniques") collected before hybridization between red wolves and coyotes is thought to have begun. They found that red wolves have either a gray wolf or a coyote mtDNA , indicating that the red wolf "species" is entirely a hybrid. Other researchers disagree about the species "status" of the red wolf. Nevertheless, this raises the
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Unformatted text preview: question: What s hould we protect? If the species isn't really a clear entity phylogenetically, does it deserve a conservation/captive breeding effort? Wayne & Jenks argue that their data should not be used to advocate the discontinuation of the conservation effort of the red wolf. These examples illustrate why the recognition of Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESU) is an issue of great concern in conservation genetics. ESUs are defined various ways, but they are recognized as populations with independent evolutionary histories. Fixed allelic differences or strong phylogenetic support such as multiple synapomorphies distinguishing one population from another are good grounds for the recognition of distinct ESUs. Hence, a full understanding of how to do molecular systematics is very important in molecular conservation genetics....
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