Gray Wolf

and its fur can be tawnier. The gray wolf (below) is typically the largest; its coloring varies a great deal. Measurements of skulls have revealed that the dimensions of the red wolf's skull fall in between those of the coyote's and the gray wolf's skulls.

polymerase chain reaction, which can produce large numbers of copies of selected bits of DNA [see "The Unusual Origin of the Polymerase Chain Reaction," by Kary B. Mullis; Scientific American, April 1990] and to the Smithsonian Institution's fur vault, we were able to examine sections of mitochondrial DNA from the skins of six red wolves that died before 1930. To our surprise, we once more failed to find diagnosable red wolf DNA sequences different from those of the coyote or the gray wolf. On the basis of such findings, we deduced that the red wolf may not be a unique species.

Our views were not well accepted by the Fish and Wildlife Service, whose researchers argued that their evidence still supported the theory that the red wolf was a species and indeed an ancestor of the gray wolf. Although some of the resistance to our hypothesis may have been motivated by politics—the

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