Canid Hybrids - Genetic Considerations

Genetic Considerations

Members of the dog genus Canis: wolves, dogs (both common dogs and dingoes), Ethiopian Wolves, coyotes, and golden jackals cannot interbreed with members of the wider dog family: the Canidae, such as South American canids, foxes, African wild dogs, bat-eared foxes or raccoon dogs; or, if they could, their offspring would be infertile.

Members of the genus Canis species can, however, all interbreed to produce fertile offspring, with two exceptions: the side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal. Although these two theoretically could interbreed with each other to produce fertile offspring, it appears they cannot hybridize successfully with the rest of the genus Canis.

When the differences in number and arrangement of chromosomes is too great, hybridization becomes less and less likely. The wolf, dingo, dog, coyote, and golden jackal diverged relatively recently, around three to four million years ago, and all have 78 chromosomes arranged in 39 pairs. This allows them to hybridize freely (barring size or behavioral constraints) and produce fertile offspring. The side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal both have 74 chromosomes. Other members of the Canidae family, which diverged seven to ten million years ago, are less closely related to and cannot hybridize with the wolf-like canids; the red fox has 38 chromosomes, the raccoon dog has 42 chromosomes, the fennec fox has 64 chromosomes. The African wild dog, however still has the same number, 78 chromosomes, as do the wolf-like canids but have yet to hybridize with any of them.

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