Friday, July 31, 2015

First New Canine in 150 Years?

Jackal, wolf, coyote, or dog?
The National Geographic headline trumpets Meet the First New Canine Found in 150 Years, but it's not a new canine at all -- simply the same old African Golden Jackal which some taxonomists are saying is a different species from those found in the Middle East.

Whatever.  

The complex taxonomy of jackals has been debated for over 150 years. Jackals are among the most diverse and widespread canids on the planet, and the idea of species should probably take a back seat to the idea of speciation.

A great deal of the taxonomic debate these days is about humans looking to publish papers, get grants, name new species, and secure habitat protection. The simple truth is that dogs, wolves, coyotes, dingoes, and golden jackals can all interbreed and produce fertile young, and very occasionally do so. What prevents this from happening very often is geography and culture related to estrus cycles, vocalization, and marking behavior.

Speciation is going on all the time, and fertile cross-species hybrids are so common as to be unremarkable and are, in fact, a core part of Darwin's treatise on evolution. More than 15 species and/or subspecies of Jackals have been named in the past

If scientists have "discovered' anything in this instance, it is simply that Jackals are every bit as diverse as we have always known, and that a few populations may be a little farther along in the speciation process than what some other scientists have previously acknowledged. A little new information, but is a debate ender?  Not by a long shot.

The real experts in these matters are not scientists, or even humans, of course, but the animals themselves. Jackals, dog, wolves, and coyotes seem to recognize major differences between themselves and give a hat tip to those differences 99.999 percent of the time.  But the world is big, time is long, and numbers are large.  Even a 0.0001 percent wobble is a lot of genetic variation, and that genetic variation is a good thing as all future evolution on earth depends on it.

13 comments:

jeffrey thurston said...

Just to be clear though-..." dogs, wolves, coyotes, dingoes and jackals can all interbreed and produce fertile young..." but dogs, wolves and dingoes are genetically exactly the same- well within the genetic difference between humans for example. The argument is as much etymological as taxonomic. What a species- what's a sub-species? Ethological differences are often found within species- eg. orca... (gotta cut it short- have to go to work- lucky for you :) )

PBurns said...

Actually, they are NOT genetically the same, which is how and why they can map genetic drift. Not genetically the same or culturally the same. There is a spectrum of difference. We put latin names on things and think everything boxes up as simple as that, but it's not true. Never has been. The experts are the animals themselves and they seem to know where the division lines are pretty well.

jeffrey thurston said...

it's all semantics my friend- exactly your argument could be made about the genetic differences between human populations! In fact Joe Smith the plumber in Akron probably varies more from a Kalahari Bushman than a Siberian Husky does from a wolf!

Mark Farrell-Churchill said...

The same complexity applies to canids closer to home, as I discussed in a post several years back: http://markgchurchill.blogspot.com/2008/07/wolves-defining-undefinable.html

PBurns said...

There is a lot of variation among people in the world, same as there is within the canid world.

You talk about Bushmen (the San people), so let's look at that for a second.

I tossed out a 0.0001 percent differential for breeding in this post, noting that this tiny number would, over time, result in a LOT of genetic wobble.

And it does.

If we take a US population of 320,000,000 a 0.0001 percent "wobble" with the San, that would mean 32,000 crosses in a U.S. cohort.

Is that level of genetic cross with the San actually occurring? I doubt it.

So why is it not occurring? Well, for the same reason it does not occur with canids -- geography and culture.

The point is that "species" and "tribe" and "race" are all made-up human concepts that reflect REAL differences in the real world.

Are those differences partially genetic?

Of course!

A Norwegian and a Dinka and a San and an Inuit will all look different from a Jivaro tribesman. They will live in different houses, work different jobs, wear different clothes, speak different languages, dance differently, etc.

A Norwegian and a Dinka and a San and an Inuit and a Jivaro are not likely to cross, though they certainly CAN biologically.

Genetic, geographical, and cultural differences within people are not small; they are major. They are the entire history of the world.

You may say a Norwegian, a Dinka, a San, an Inuit, and a Jivaro are "all the same," but THEY will tell you they are not, and I would argue THEY are the experts here, not some fellow with a theory and a clip board in a distant land.

In fact, to say they are "all the same" is actually a kind of cultural and historical genocide which negates not only their historical and geographical differences, but also their cultural and genetic differences as well. To bring it home: a wolf is not a dog any more than an Inuit is a Dinka and, as you say, this point is obscured by very loaded semantics.

PBurns said...

Yes, we are "all the same" in that the San are just as economically deserving as the Norwegian, the Inuit as culturally valuable as the Dinka, the San legally equal to the Jivaro tribesman or a Wall Street banker.

No question there.

But are these groups genetically, geographically, historically, or culturally identical? Well, just ask them! Can they tell each other apart? Do they freely co-mingle? Do they often cross-breed? Do they eat the same things, do the same things, live in the same houses, talk the same language? If not, why not?

The point here is that the experts here do not have clip boards and theories, whether they are people, dogs or wolves!

Species barriers are not simply about whether one animal can interbreed with another. Ducks freely cross-breed all the time, but is a Black Duck the same as a Mallard? Is a Grizzly bear the same as a Polar bear? Is a Mountain Lion the same as a Leopard?

All of these "species" can be called "tribes" if you want to humanize them. All semantics and all good. All can interbreed, but they in fact do so only very rarely because they have geographical, historical, cultural (and yes genetic) differences. We recognize them as different species because of those geographical, historical, cultural and genetic differences. When differences rise to a certain level within a group of animals, we say they are a different “species,” and when those differences rise to a certain level with a group of people we say they are a different “race,” or a different “culture,” or a different “tribe”. This is all semantics dressing up very real and easy-to-see on the ground differences in culture, history, geography, and genetics.

Whatever you want to call them, with theories and clip board in hand, is fine with me.

The point is that **outsiders are not the actual experts here.**

A Norwegian, a Dinka, a San, an Inuit, and a Jivaro know they are different, same as a wolf and a dog and coyote know they are different.

You can use whatever words you want to talk about differences between groups. You can quote as many Harvard studies as you want, and cap it all off with a rousing rendition of “It’s a Small World After All.” No problem, and all good.

But the real experts here are not so easily blended together, trivialized, or marginalized as the people with clip boards would have us believe. The “tribe of the dog” does not blend any quicker than the tribe of Leo, the tribe of Ursus, the tribe of Ana, or the tribe of Man. You can erase all the borders on a map, but the borders still exists in a very real world that is much older than maps. So it is with people, and so it is with ducks, owls, trout, salmon, whales, deer, lions, tigers, wolves, and bears.

Just because walls can be leaped does not mean the walls do not exist, and just because the walls exist does not mean they cannot be leaped.

Or, as an old biology professor once put it: "Not all pigeons fit so nearly into holes." :)

jeffrey thurston said...

Agree with all that flood of words EXCEPT "... is a Black Duck the same as a Mallard? Is a Grizzly bear the same as a Polar bear? Is a Mountain Lion the same as a Leopard?" This is a bad analogy because those different pairs ARE different species genetically and taxonomically- close relatives but different. Tribes of Man, dogs/wolves are the same genetically for all practical purposes. I am NOT saying dogs and wolves are the same- just that they are the same species.

PBurns said...

Black Ducks DO breed with Mallards. All the time. Fertile young.

Grizzly bears DO breed with Polar bears. In zoos and in the wild. Fertile yojng.

Mountain Lions DO breed with Jaguars and Leopards. Fertile young.

The EXACT same thing as wolves, dogs, coyotes, dingoes and jackals.

A "species" is not a species because it says so in Wikipedia. Look up to the animal, not down to the book. If the animals actually DO cross breed and produce fertile young in the wild and out, how is that different? It's not.

PBurns said...

Very nice post by Mark at >> http://markgchurchill.blogspot.com/2008/07/wolves-defining-undefinable.html


"Result: No one agrees on what constitutes a valid species. Arguably, we may have...

- 2 species: grey wolf and coyote (red and Algonquin wolves are hybrids)
- 3 species: grey wolf, red wolf, and coyote (Algonquin wolf is a hybrid)
- 3 species: grey wolf, Algonquin wolf, and coyote (red wolf is a hybrid)
- 3 species: grey wolf, combined Algonquin/red wolf, and coyote
- 4 species: grey wolf, red wolf, Algonquin wolf, and coyote (all valid species)

... I left out another classification scheme: One species. "We like to call it Canis soup," says a researcher in the Scientific American article. Tongue-in-cheek it may be, but I think Darwin—who after all demolished the concept of completely fixed, created species in favor of a messier but more elegant and realistic view of the natural world—would have approved. "

jeffrey thurston said...

"...Black Ducks DO breed with Mallards. All the time. Fertile young.

Grizzly bears DO breed with Polar bears. In zoos and in the wild. Fertile yojng.

Mountain Lions DO breed with Jaguars and Leopards. Fertile young.

The EXACT same thing as wolves, dogs, coyotes, dingoes and jackals..."
NOT the exact same thing- because bears and ducks and cats all vary significantly genetically- their offspring can be iffy. Jackals and coyotes can interbreed with wolves/dogs but they are still different by a matter of over 1%. genetically, humans amongst themselves and dogs and wolves are the same- are you really arguing that tribes and races are different species? And finally- the post you reference is mostly an argument about sub-species and hybridization. In this I'll defer to the sciency guys who say and have said since 1993 that wolves and dogs are the same SPECIES- and not because they can interbreed but because they are almost identical genetically.

PBurns said...

"Their offspring can be iffy."

I have no idea what that means. Hybrids between two different species are extremely common -- trout, owls, falcons, hawks, ducks, salmon, whales, deer, mice, rats, canids, tigers, lions... it goes on and on.

The offspring are not "iffy" -- they reproduce, live to old age for the most part, and are subsumed into the gene pool of one side or another if they are lucky enough to find a mate.

The simple point is that your points all depend on ink from a library, while I am making a case based on real fur, feather, and fin.

You salute words, not fulling understand the fragility of those words historically or scientifically. How many genus and species have been created and merged, split and absorbed in the last 40 years? All ink and artifice as the animals themselves remain the same.

PBurns said...

A simple page on species and hybrids going up to cross/genus hybrids. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_(biology)

jeffrey thurston said...

"...The simple point is that your points all depend on ink from a library, while I am making a case based on real fur, feather, and fin..." Pulling the ol' Jack London card - eh? Now it's my turn to have no idea what you mean- I thought we were having a kind of amateur scientific discussion! I agree that science can be askew at times but it moves forward basically- we know more today than ten years ago. "...salute words..."? I read and absorb- I have not read one recent (since 1993) sciencey article anywhere which will say that dogs and wolves aren't the same species. Hints maybe. As far as hybridization- the further away genetically two animals are the iffier the offspring- no doubt. Ligers for instance are often sterile and not healthy. So let me get you straight- are you saying that dogs and wolves are NOT the same species? I get the fur and claw philosophy but what exactly do you mean after all this? BTW- I read the wiki link you posted- maybe you'll read this link: http://www2.fiu.edu/~milesk/Genetics.htm