hybrids

Genetics of Mexican wolves – assessment of possible hybridization with other canids

A new study, commissioned by the Pima Natural Resource Conservation District*, examined the genetics of Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) and assessed the possibility of hybridization with dogs of Native American origin and or/coyotes. You can read the entire study here.

The basic finding from this research and other research cited within the report are that all North American wolves are hybrids with coyotes, and a few are hybrids with dogs. The current captive-bred population of Mexican wolves shows no hybridization with coyotes or dogs, but some previous research did detect some Mexican wolf-coyote hybrids.

Here are some highlights from the report:

The study concluded “living Mexican wolves are not derived from hybridization with Native American dogs. The results also did not indicate recent hybridization between Mexican wolves and coyotes. However, one wolf-dog hybrid was detected in wolves from Idaho. Our study used captive-reared Mexican wolves, therefor future analyses of wild-born wolves and dogs living in the same areas are needed to determine if hybridization is occurring in the wild population of Mexican wolves in Mexico, New Mexico and Arizona.”

The report notes that other studies have found wolf-dog hybrids in northern wolves .

“A second hybridization concern involves wolves and coyotes. Wolves and coyotes share a recent common ancestor during the Pleistocene (Ice Ages) in North America and their subsequent occupation of the same ranges may result in some level of hybridization. Indeed, evidence of historic and recent hybridization comes from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences, y-chromosome, SNPs and whole genome sequences (WGS).”

“… land use changes following European colonization of North America have favored the spread of coyotes while wolf populations have declined, resulting in substantial levels of hybridization between these two species in some areas (e.g. Eastern North America). This same process also resulted in hybridization with domestic dogs, contributing to three species hybrids in some populations…”

“..all North American wolves …have significant amounts of coyote ancestry. In addition, we detect a strong geographic cline in the proportion of coyote ancestry across North American canids: Alaskan and Yellowstone wolves have 8 to 8.5% coyote ancestry, Great Lakes wolves have 21.7 to 23.9% coyote ancestry, Algonquin wolves have at least 32.5 to 35.5% coyote ancestry, and Quebec sequences have more than 50% coyote ancestry. [A] Mexican wolf… had a coyote ancestry of approximately 11%. The significance of these results, as well as those of previous authors, is that wolf-coyote hybridization occurs naturally, and the process can be accelerated in human-dominated landscapes that favor coyotes.”

“The captive Mexican wolf samples were divergent from other wolves as well as coyotes and dogs of European, East Asian, and North American descent.”

“Additionally, the remnant Mexican wolf population was subject to, and has the genetic signal of, one of the most severe, recent genetic bottlenecks in conservation history. It was founded from just seven remaining individuals separated into three lineages, subsequently inbred in captivity, and then lineages cross-bred to attempt a genetic rescue.”

We see from this study that the science is not settled. There are still several outstanding questions regarding Mexican wolves in the wild.

Question for readers: Should an animal group that is variously hybridized with other animals qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act?

*About the Pima Natural Resource Conservation District (link)

The Pima NRCD is a State-authorized local unit of government that has been given a broad mandate to provide for the restoration and conservation of lands and soil resources, the preservation of water rights and the control and prevention of soil erosion, and thereby to conserve natural resources, conserve wildlife, protect the tax base, protect public lands and protect and restore this state’s rivers and streams and associated riparian habitats, including fish and wildlife resources that are dependent on those habitats, and in such manner to protect and promote the public health, safety and general welfare of the people.

Arizona’s 42 Conservation Districts cover the entire state of Arizona, and parts of New Mexico and Utah on the Navajo Nation. Arizona’s Conservation Districts are in a unique position to lead local conservation partnership efforts that achieve landscape level results across all land ownerships in Arizona. They have authority to enter into agreements with private landowners, state and federal agencies, tribes, and others to implement a local conservation program in their District. The Conservation District model has proven itself over the last 75 years to be the most effective approach to achieving sound management of Arizona’s natural resources.

Pima NRCD believes private lands provide the tax base that supports most county and state services. Additionally, private lands are the underlying lands for historic federal and state grazing leases, as these lands are the basis for economic productivity.

Disclosure: I am a board member of Pima NRCD.

 

See also:

Wolf attacks on humans in North America

Are Mexican wolves in Arizona actually wolf-dog hybrids?

Obama’s Electric car experiment a failure so far

The administration’s rosy hope: If we build it, they will sell, hasn’t panned out. Sales of GM’s hybrid Volt and Nissan’s Leaf are much below expectations in spite of heavy U.S. government subsidies. In fact, GM is temporarily suspending Volt production – again. Even the liberal Washington Post is disenchanted:

“No matter how you slice it, the American taxpayer has gotten precious little for the administration’s investment in battery-powered vehicles, in terms of permanent jobs or lower carbon dioxide emissions. There is no market, or not much of one, for vehicles that are less convenient and cost thousands of dollars more than similar-sized gas-powered alternatives — but do not save enough fuel to compensate. The basic theory of the Obama push for electric vehicles — if you build them, customers will come — was a myth. And an expensive one, at that.”

Part of the problem is that electric cars are impractical due to their limited range given the current state of battery technology. We knew that 100 years ago. The vehicle in the photo is the 1911 Baker Electric which could go 50 miles on one battery charge. The GM Volt can go 40 miles on a charge. The Nissan Leaf claims 100 miles on a charge, but that varies from 47 to 138 miles depending on conditions. By the way, hybrid vehicles, first developed in 1916, just make automobiles unnecessarily complex.

Emphasizing the impracticality of electric cars, a story last year about driving a Leaf from San Diego, California, to Tucson, Arizona, found that what is normally an 8-hour drive took a week in a Leaf.

GM is losing money on each Volt they make. They are selling the Volt for about $40,000 (much more expensive than comparable gasoline-power models), but it costs GM $89,000 to manufacture the vehicle according to Reuters.

Sales of the Volt have been weak even though federal agencies (i.e. taxpayers) have been buying or plan to buy them.

Another, related issue is The EPA’s Electric Vehicle Mileage Fraud. The EPA calculates a miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe) for electric cars that estimates the amount of fossil fuels which must be burned to create the electricity to charge the batteries of an electric car. In a Forbes article, Warren Meyers shows that “The EPA’s methodology is flawed because it assumes perfect conversion of the potential energy in fossil fuels to electricity, an assumption that violates the second law of thermodynamics. The Department of Energy has a better methodology that computes electric vehicle equivalent mileage based on real world power plant efficiencies and fuel mixes, while also taking into account energy used for refining gasoline for traditional cars. Using this better DOE methodology, we get MPGe’s for electric cars that are barely 1/3 of the EPA figures.”

It seems that the great green hype is more hope than reality. This exercise in crony capitalism and green dreaming demonstrates the incompetence of government in the marketplace.

See also:

Does the Chevy Volt produce more CO2 from its battery than from its gasoline engine

Tax Dollars to Build Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles

The Chevy Volt, just the latest expensive toy

Which Vehicles Are Most Energy Efficient?

Electric cars not selling

Baker_Electric_DV_06-AI_01General Motors is boosting its production of the $41,000 hybrid Chevrolet Volt to 16,000 this year. But according to the Detroit News, they’ve sold only 1,700 Volts so far this year. So, where is all this production going? Again, according to Detroit News, “about 2,500 will go to dealer demonstration fleets, and another 3,500 will be built for export to China, Canada and Europe, GM officials said.” That leaves 10,000 Volts to take up space in GM parking lots. Even if GM manages to sell all 16,000 Volts, that would represent only 0.1% of the new car market. The Volt has a range of about 40 miles on one charge. By contrast, the 1911 Baker Electric from the Baker Motor Vehicle Company of Cleveland, Ohio, could go 50 miles on one battery charge.

Meanwhile, Nissan Motors has sold only 8,000 of its all electric Nissan Leafs worldwide since last December. Maybe that’s because all-electric vehicles are not practical outside an urban environment. Recall a recent story about driving a Leaf from San Diego, California, to Tucson, Arizona. The normally 8-hour drive took a week in a Leaf.

It seems that fuel efficient gasoline-powered cars are still the choice for most car buyers. When considering a new car, one should investigate total energy efficiency, not just gas mileage. For more details on which vehicles are really the most energy efficient, see my post:

Which Vehicles Are Most Energy Efficient. The results my surprise you.

For more background on electric vehicles, see:

The Chevy Volt, just the latest expensive toy

Tax Dollars to Build Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles

Does the Chevy Volt produce more CO2 from its battery than from its gasoline engine

Chevy Volt might be less than claimed

Chevy Volt might be less than claimed

General Motors officially introduced the Chevy Volt which will go on sale at Chevy dealers before the end of the year. The GM line: “The Chevrolet Volt is not a hybrid. It is a one-of-a-kind, all-electrically driven vehicle designed and engineered to operate in all climates.” Priced at just over $40,000, it is eligible for a $7,500 federal subsidy that is not available to hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius ($22,000 base price).

GM’s claim that the Volt is not a hybrid is disputed by Motor Trend and by Edmunds Inside Line who have tested the car. They claim that under certain conditions, the gasoline engine drives the vehicle, thereby making it a hybrid. (They note, however, that the Volt handles much better than the Prius) See:

Motor Trend story Unbolting the Chevy Volt to See How it Ticks

Edmunds Inside Line story: GM Lied: Chevy Volt Is Not a True EV

Popular Mechanics tested the Volt’s range and fuel economy: “In addition to measuring EV range, we also recorded the fuel use when the car was in its ‘charge sustaining’ mode. In other words, we computed the fuel economy after the battery was depleted, both on our city loop and the highway trip. In the city, we recorded 31.67 mpg and achieved 36.0 mpg on the highway. If we factor in the distance traveled on the battery’s energy the fuel economy jumps to 37.5 mpg city and 38.15 mpg highway.” The average range on batteries alone was 33 miles.

I once owned a 1984 Toyota Tercel that got up to 44 mpg on the highway. So why is the Volt touted as such a breakthrough rather than just another expensive toy?

The Chevy Volt, just the latest expensive toy

Baker_Electric_DV_06-AI_01The 2011 Chevy Volt from Government Motors is touted as the answer to carbon emissions and green jobs. The Volt, a hybrid vehicle, is said to be able to go 40 miles on one battery charge. The 1911 Baker Electric from the Baker Motor Vehicle Company of Cleveland, Ohio, could go 50 miles on one battery charge. The 1902 Baker Torpedo set a land speed record.

Electric cars have been around since the 1830s. First developed in Holland, then France and Britain, electric cars were first produced in America during the 1890s.

The turn of the 20th Century was a time of experimentation in transportation. For instance, in 1900, a total of 2,370 automobiles could be found in New York, Chicago and Boston. 800 of those cars were fully electric, 400 cars were powered by gasoline, and 1,170 were steam-powered automobiles.

The early electric vehicles, such as the 1902 Wood’s Phaeton, were little more than electrified horseless carriages and surreys. The Phaeton had a range of 18 miles, a top speed of 14 mph and cost $2,000. Later in 1916, Woods invented a hybrid car that had both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

Electric vehicles have always been the playthings of the well-to-do. Even the earliest models were expensive for their time. The 2008 Tesla Motors Darkstar Roadster has a net base price of US$101,500 and can go 200 miles on a battery charge. The Chevy Volt with its $41,000 price tag and 40-mile electric range, is also a plaything of the relatively wealthy. And if the government offers a $7,500 rebate, that just means the rest of us are subsidizing toys for the rich.

Advances in battery technology still have not found the solution to long range and quick recharge time. Purely electric vehicles may satisfy a niche market, but they are still impractical for general transportation. Hybrid vehicles, first developed in 1916, just make automobiles unnecessarily complex. It’s just physics. Gasoline has 80 times the energy density of the best lithium ion batteries.

Phaeton1The whole impetus behind electric or hybrid vehicles is they will lower our carbon footprint. But will they really do that?

According to the US Department of Energy, most electricity generation in the United States is from fossil sources, and half of that is from coal. Coal is more carbon-intensive than oil. Overall average efficiency from US power plants (33% efficient) to point of use (transmission loss 9.5%) is 30%. Accepting a 70% to 80% efficiency for the electric vehicle gives a figure of only around 20% overall efficiency when recharged from fossil fuels. That is comparable to the efficiency of an internal combustion engine running at variable load. The efficiency of a gasoline engine is about 16%, and 20% for a diesel engine.

Because of the relatively high price of electric/hybrid vehicles, German automakers say, Without government subsidies, electric cars are virtually unmarketable. If all that is true, we are spending much money on a fantasy. But, the electric car “has long been recognized as the ideal solution” because it “is cleaner and quieter” and “much more economical.” That statement was published by The New York Times on November 12, 1911. We have yet to see that rosy prediction come true, as noted by the Energy Tribune.