Scientists from India have recorded the first hybrids between a grey wolf (Canis lupus) and a dog (Canis lupus familiaris) in the country. This was confirmed by the results of genetic studies published in the journal "Ecology and Evolution".
This discovery is of great importance because the population of wild dogs in India often inhabits the same areas where grey wolves are found. Although it was known that the two species could interbreed, for example, such observations were made in Europe, there was no official documented evidence of such hybrids in India.
The study was conducted by a team of scientists from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, who were eventually able to confirm the existence of these hybrids. They received data from nature lovers who spotted two unexpected individuals in a pack of wild wolves near the city of Pune.
One of these animals had unusually brown fur, and the other had atypical facial features for wolves. The civilian scientists who were observing them were able to collect hair samples from the animals' habitats and took them to a laboratory for genetic analysis.
The DNA of the hair samples was compared to known DNA sequences of dogs, wolves, jackals (Canis aureus), cougars (Cuon alpinus) and other members of the canine family (Canidae). As a result, it turned out that one of the hybrids was a descendant of a wolf and a domestic dog, but the other had a more complex origin with the presence of wolf DNA, including a wolf-dog hybrid, as well as a backcross with a wolf.
Scientists are concerned that such hybrids could threaten wolf populations and believe that the issue of crossbreeding between wolves and dogs needs more attention from conservation organisations.
Earlier, scientists finally found the answer to the long-standing mystery of the first multicellular animal on Earth.
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