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Thread: Black Wolf Coat Color Mystery

  1. #1

    Default Black Wolf Coat Color Mystery

    I was having a conversation with my wife, and we were discussing what causes the coat color of wolves to occasionally turn black. I told her that I thought it was a recessive trait and that in regions with more timber the darker color variation is a more favorable camo and natural selection favors the darker coloration. I thought I remembered hearing or reading about that. But then I did a little online research, and to my surprise I was finding many different conflicting answers. Some websites seem to suggest that the darker coat was actually a dominant trait. I found several websites that talked about a possible hypothesis that the black coat color is the result of wolves hybridizing with dogs thousands of years ago when people were crossing the bering straits land bridge. Anyhow, I thought I would post this to see if anyone had any clear answers or any insight into this mystery. What are your thoughts? Opinions?

  2. #2
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post
    I was having a conversation with my wife, and we were discussing what causes the coat color of wolves to occasionally turn black. I told her that I thought it was a recessive trait and that in regions with more timber the darker color variation is a more favorable camo and natural selection favors the darker coloration. I thought I remembered hearing or reading about that. But then I did a little online research, and to my surprise I was finding many different conflicting answers. Some websites seem to suggest that the darker coat was actually a dominant trait. I found several websites that talked about a possible hypothesis that the black coat color is the result of wolves hybridizing with dogs thousands of years ago when people were crossing the bering straits land bridge. Anyhow, I thought I would post this to see if anyone had any clear answers or any insight into this mystery. What are your thoughts? Opinions?
    I had a couple of friends a while back who were involved in crossing the Bering Straits land bridge. It was some time before I moved to Alaska, so wasn't there, but I think I have some old Polaroids around here somewhere showing a couple of their dogs that were indeed black. Of course it was before Labrador Retrievers were around; they resembled Newfoundlands. Big dogs. I could see them interbreeding with wolves.

    (mike takes another sip from the flask, reaches over and tosses another log on the fire, the embers floating skyward into the black night sky...)

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  3. #3
    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    I had a couple of friends a while back who were involved in crossing the Bering Straits land bridge. It was some time before I moved to Alaska, so wasn't there, but I think I have some old Polaroids around here somewhere showing a couple of their dogs that were indeed black. Of course it was before Labrador Retrievers were around; they resembled Newfoundlands. Big dogs. I could see them interbreeding with wolves.

    (mike takes another sip from the flask, reaches over and tosses another log on the fire, the embers floating skyward into the black night sky...)

    -Mike
    That was a heck of a bridge too, weren't it? I remember them say'n how treacherous it could get in the winter tho, what with all the freezing spray. Still, it was a cool bridge. Was a shame when it went down. Pass that flask over here, would ya?
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    I had a couple of friends a while back who were involved in crossing the Bering Straits land bridge. It was some time before I moved to Alaska, so wasn't there, but I think I have some old Polaroids around here somewhere showing a couple of their dogs that were indeed black. Of course it was before Labrador Retrievers were around; they resembled Newfoundlands. Big dogs. I could see them interbreeding with wolves.

    (mike takes another sip from the flask, reaches over and tosses another log on the fire, the embers floating skyward into the black night sky...)

    -Mike
    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    That was a heck of a bridge too, weren't it? I remember them say'n how treacherous it could get in the winter tho, what with all the freezing spray. Still, it was a cool bridge. Was a shame when it went down. Pass that flask over here, would ya?
    Ha, ha. Very funny. I would expect this from you Taiga, but not from you Mike. I didn't make this stuff up. Check it out for yourselves if you don't believe me. You got a better explanation?

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/02/blackwolves/

    http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2012/...ctive-success/

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,488704,00.html

    http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla...out-80301.aspx

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0205142137.htm

    http://www.macroevolution.net/black-...l#.UJCIDI5OSlI

    http://www.science20.com/adaptive_co...y_black_wolves

    http://evolutionarynovelty.blogspot....lack-wolf.html

    http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife...Gray-Wolf.aspx

  5. #5
    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post
    You got a better explanation?
    A better explanation for what? Exactly from where/when the genetic drivers of melanism in North American Canis Lupis originate? I don't know. I have read the original paper (it's 2.5MB so I can't upload it to here), it's interesting reading but on the above question it's inconclusive. The authors made some WAG speculations, but it will take a lot more genetic research to be able to say anything definitive on the question. And even so, we may never know.

    Sorry for the initial levity. No offense meant.
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    A better explanation for what? Exactly from where/when the genetic drivers of melanism in North American Canis Lupis originate? I don't know. I have read the original paper (it's 2.5MB so I can't upload it to here), it's interesting reading but on the above question it's inconclusive. The authors made some WAG speculations, but it will take a lot more genetic research to be able to say anything definitive on the question. And even so, we may never know.

    Sorry for the initial levity. No offense meant.
    No offense taken. I'll try to clarify the question. Does anyone know the genetic pattern or mode of inheritance responsible for the black color phase of a wolf? Is it a homozygous dominant trait, homozygous recessive trait, heterozygous trait, a polygenic trait, multifactorial trait, is it related to a form of dominance hierarchy like rabbits (chinchilla, himalayan, full, albino etc.), is it a sex-linked trait, is it related to dosage compensation (like in the case of calico cats), is it an epistatic trait (as in the case with labrador retrievers)? If anyone out there has some specific insight that would be helpful. I like to actually have an answer to a question when one of my loved ones asks me to explain something. If my wife, son or daughter asks me a question I don't want to tell them to refer to a 2.5 MB paper. I actually like to articulate and communicate with them and teach them something new. You would make a terrific politician Taiga. You definitely have an elegant way with words but I can never seem to get a straight answer from you.

  7. #7
    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post
    No offense taken. I'll try to clarify the question. Does anyone know the genetic pattern or mode of inheritance responsible for the black color phase of a wolf? Is it a homozygous dominant trait, homozygous recessive trait, heterozygous trait, a polygenic trait, multifactorial trait, is it related to a form of dominance hierarchy like rabbits (chinchilla, himalayan, full, albino etc.), is it a sex-linked trait, is it related to dosage compensation (like in the case of calico cats), is it an epistatic trait (as in the case with labrador retrievers)? If anyone out there has some specific insight that would be helpful. I like to actually have an answer to a question when one of my loved ones asks me to explain something. If my wife, son or daughter asks me a question I don't want to tell them to refer to a 2.5 MB paper. I actually like to articulate and communicate with them and teach them something new. You would make a terrific politician Taiga. You definitely have an elegant way with words but I can never seem to get a straight answer from you.
    Such kind words! I wouldn't be caught dead playing the role of a politician. Not for love nor money.

    Anyway, here's a URL from which you can download the full text of the study (top right; 2.4 MB PDF): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2903542/

    It would appear that about the only thing determined with much certainty is that the data indicates at one point domestic canids reintroduced some genetic disposition for melanism into the wild population in N. America that would seem to have largely disappeared from the wild population after the wild and domestic populations diverged thousands of years prior. Just one very tiny piece of the puzzle, and not at all definitive. If I were you, I'd pose my questions directly to the authors of the study. They should be qualified to give you the best available answers to your specific questions. They're certainly far more qualified than am I. Perhaps there are some Doctoral Geneticists lurking around here who will wade in.
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
    I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
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  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    Such kind words! I wouldn't be caught dead playing the role of a politician. Not for love nor money.

    Anyway, here's a URL from which you can download the full text of the study (top right; 2.4 MB PDF): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2903542/

    It would appear that about the only thing determined with much certainty is that the data indicates at one point domestic canids reintroduced some genetic disposition for melanism into the wild population in N. America that would seem to have largely disappeared from the wild population after the wild and domestic populations diverged thousands of years prior. Just one very tiny piece of the puzzle, and not at all definitive. If I were you, I'd pose my questions directly to the authors of the study. They should be qualified to give you the best available answers to your specific questions. They're certainly far more qualified than am I. Perhaps there are some Doctoral Geneticists lurking around here who will wade in.
    Very interesting read. I thought it was very interesting that the article mentioned that the black coat color is absent in the Old World population of wolves in Northern Europe and Asia with the exception of a small population of wolves in Italy that have been documented hybridizing with domestic dogs. I would say that definitely give credible evidence to the idea that the black coat color is actually derived from domesticated dogs. If I had to take my best guess after reading all the sources I would probably infer that the black coat color is caused by a dominant trait, but because it is influenced by several genes, all the dominant genes have to be present for the black trait to be expressed. The article you referenced mentioned something to the fact that the normal gray coloration is suppressed by a deletion of 3 base pair genes. This only adds to the confusion. How a deletion of 3 base pairs causes the dominant gene to be expressed baffles me. Perhaps it is similar to labrador retrievers where a black lab is expressed only if two dominant alleles are combined E_B_, whereas if the first is dominant and the second is recessive E_bb, the chocolate lab is expressed. And any combination with the first allele recessive eeBb, eebb, eeBB results in a yellow lab with different shades of yellow or light brown.

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    I believe its something acorn fought to put into law so now we got em. I do know that most all hair is the same color just like clouds.Its the thickness of the hair and amount of light that can pass through that gives color.lack horses have the thickest hair and white the thinnest. All clouds are white but as they pile up less light gets through going from pinks reds to dark black.
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

  10. #10

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    In my search for the answer, I came across some cool videos of black coyotes. Anybody ever seen a black coyote in the wild in AK? I've seen black wolves and black foxes, but I never heard of anyone seeing a black coyote up here. Here are the links to the videos.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcaucQrzNqU

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeHOKL-c090

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4VIp3vDnzY

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxHMdjhd0m8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post
    In my search for the answer, I came across some cool videos of black coyotes. Anybody ever seen a black coyote in the wild in AK? I've seen black wolves and black foxes, but I never heard of anyone seeing a black coyote up here. Here are the links to the videos.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcaucQrzNqU

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeHOKL-c090

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4VIp3vDnzY

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxHMdjhd0m8

    Thats crazy, I have never seen a black Coyote before.

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