DNA forensics reveal species of mystery animal killed in Montana

Avatar By Le Williams | 2 years ago

Wildlife officials have confirmed that an unusual-looking animal shot in central Montana was a gray wolf through the use of DNA testing.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks officials initially demonstrated uncertainties towards the identification of the creature killed by a rancher in May. They noted the legs, front claws, and canine teeth were shorter and the ears were bigger than normally seen on wolves.

The agency said Monday that an inspection of the animal at its laboratory revealed it to be a relatively normal-looking wolf. DNA tests confirmed that it was a gray wolf.

Officials said the wolf was a 2- or 3-year-old female with unique physical features.

Ecologist Shan Kothari states, “Sometimes there arises an adaptive need for plasticity in certain physical traits of a species; in other cases, there needs to be more consistency. Changes in developmental mechanisms that allow for plasticity or ensure consistency cause variation within species to differ.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service geneticist Mary Curtis said it is not unusual for there to be physical variations of animals within a species.

“The difference here is based on how many mutations can occur within a set amount of time. Dogs, for example, can change much more quickly than other species, like humans for example,” she explained.