Scientists: why are wolves black or gray?

There is so much we don’t know about wild animals yet! So much unknown, amazing and absolutely amazing. But at the same time, people continue to rapidly destroy all life around them, kill wild animals, consider everything around their colony, where every insect, every little animal must obey the will of man.

Today I want to tell you about wolves. As part of our fight against the extermination of the Russian wolf, we are trying to convey to the authorities the importance of key predators in ecological systems. Those things that are diligently ignored by the authorities, business, and the hunting community. In addition, there are things that almost no one understands at all! How are wolves arranged? Why are they important in ecosystems? Why did nature create predators?

We, people, are just opening the veil of secrets and mysteries. Suppose only now that scientists have managed to find out why wolves come in different colors. Did you know that wolves come in completely different colors? There are white wolves, there are gray wolves with different shades, and there are black wolves. Completely black as night! There are such wolves in the United States of America, and in Russia, in Canada.

But why? Why do wolves change their color? Why are there different colors? Why did nature create this?

Until recently, this remained a mystery. And just recently, scientists finally solved the mystery! Thanks to a new study from Oxford University, Pennsylvania State and Yellowstone National Park, we now know exactly why wolves change color.

On the North American continent, the color changes of wolves are very unusual, for example, if you move from Arctic Canada to the south, down the Rocky Mountains towards Mexico, then you will begin to meet more black wolves. That is, the further south – the more black individuals!

“In most parts of the world, black wolves are absent or very rare, but in North America they are common in some areas and absent in others. Scientists have long wondered why. We now have an explanation based on studies of wolves across North America and modeling based on unusual data collected by collaborators who work in Yellowstone,” says Prof Tim Coulson from the Department of Biology at Oxford University, who led the recent study.

The fact is that the color of wool in wolves is determined by a gene called CPD103. And depending on which version of this gene the wolf has, the coat can be either black or gray. Scientists were able to find out that the region of DNA containing the gene, among other things, encodes a protein that plays a role in protecting against infections in the lungs of mammals. Thus, the researchers suggested that this gene is necessary for protection against respiratory diseases. Let’s say from the canine distemper virus.

Canine distemper virus is designated by the scientific abbreviation CDV. Scientists have been able to prove that wolves with antibodies to CDV are most likely to be black. In addition, while studying wolf packs, scientists noticed one feature: black wolves are found most of all in those areas where outbreaks of canine distemper were previously recorded.

Those wolves that have been infected with plague in the past and survived begin to develop antibodies to CDV. Thus, scientists were able to carefully study the wolves, in total, during the study, experts analyzed 12 wolf populations from North America.

Experts have collected all available data on wolf populations in Yellowstone National Park over the past 20 years. In-depth analysis has shown that black wolves are more likely to survive new outbreaks of CDV than gray individuals. This means that in areas where outbreaks occur, wolves need to choose opposite-sex mates based on coat color. That is, black wolves need to choose gray partners for themselves in order to protect the population from diseases. In order to confirm this conjecture, the scientists used a simple mathematical model. And the predictions based on their model were fully consistent with observations of black and gray wolves mating in areas with common CDV outbreaks.

Thus, it has been proven that the color of the coat in wolves helps to provide protection against viruses. Protection is not limited to dog distemper alone, depending on the shade of coat color – wolves cope with different diseases in different areas.

Do you know what is the most unusual? The people are to blame for the appearance of black wolves. The fact is that the gene for protection against canine distemper was obtained from domestic dogs, which were brought to the mainland by the first people who arrived in North America. And the CDV virus itself appeared there many thousands of years later again from dogs. Here is such a vicious circle. Wolves, on the other hand, had to adapt to changes, genes changed, both the appearance and color of wolves changed. Predators had to change because of the arrival of man.

“What I love about this study is that we were able to bring together experts from so many fields and different approaches to show how the disease can have a marked effect on wolf morphology and behavior. We are learning that disease is a major driver of evolution that affects many aspects of animal populations,” said Willaman, Penn. professor of biology Peter Hudson.

Now researchers want to study other wild animals in the same way. Scientists suggest that in many birds, mammals and even insects, but in almost all non-humans, color and color change contribute to resistance against various diseases.



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Pavel Pashkov