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Meet the Coywolf, North America's Newest Animal Species

Update Date: Oct 31, 2015 01:16 PM EDT
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Researchers suspect that new species combining attributes of wolves, coyotes, and domestic dogs is currently taking shape in North America.

Known variously as a coywolf or the eastern coyote, this species is a blend of the three primary canidae species found in North America, according to The Economist.

The species is believed to have its origins in wolves in southern Ontario roughly 100 to 200 years ago. The wolves had to breed outside their species because deforestation destroyed their habitats and because farmers regularly killed them to protect their flocks and herds. This left wolves with fewer options to keep the species going, so they began to breed with their close cousins, domestic dogs and coyotes.

Typically, such interbreeding does not result in a successful new species.

Research on the species based on samples from ten U.S. states and parts of Canada has found that coyote DNA is the most prominent, with dog DNA making up roughly 10 percent, a wolf DNA making up 25 percent.

The DNA from wolves and dogs has proved to be the coywolf's biggest asset. Most of the dog DNA is from larger breeds like German Shepherds. The DNA from large dog breeds and wolves means that coywolves usually weigh around 25 kilograms, allowing them to attack small deer. A pack of coywolves working in unison are even able to take down a moose.

Most remarkable however, may be their ability to survive in the urban areas of the densely populated U.S. northeast. They are able to eat fruits and vegetables as well as prey on animals like mice and cats. They are so well-adapted to city life they even know to look both ways before crossing the street.

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