Coyotes, wolves and dogs have formed like Voltron to create a powerful new animal that some scientists are already calling a new species.
And there are already a ton of them.
The "coywolf," as the specimen is now commonly called, is the product of weak versions of wolves and coyotes interbreeding between each other, as well as with dogs that are the product of human settlement.
The resulting offspring are twice as massive as purebred coyotes, capable of killing deer and, in packs, moose. Thanks to their genetic intermingling, they also have the ability to hunt in any terrain—like wolves, in forests, or like coyotes, in more densely populated areas.
In a study of 437 of the animals, one researcher found that the average coywolf is a tenth dog—usually Dobermans or German Shepherds—a quarter wolf, and the rest coyote. Here's what they sound like:
Roland Kays of North Carolina State University told The Economist he estimates they now number in the millions, and are spreading fast beyond their northeastern epicenter. From the magazine:
The animal’s range has encompassed America’s entire north-east, urban areas included, for at least a decade, and is continuing to expand in the south-east following coywolves’ arrival there half a century ago. This is astonishing.
So if you see something that looks like a coyote east of the Mississippi, it is almost certainly a coywolf.
The question is whether they represent a new species. By one strict definition they are not, since they do not breed exclusively. But then again, that would also preclude the dogs and wolves that gave rise to them from being called species too.
Whatever it is, we'd like to welcome it to the neighborhood.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.