Check out the world’s first dog-fox hybrid
In 2021, a dog-like animal got run over by a car in the Cerrado region of Brazil. Later, rescue workers brought the creature to veterinarians, who noticed unusual characteristics. The animal looked and barked like a dog, but it climbed bushes and sported long, pointed foxlike ears. More importantly, further studies confirmed the critter is the first-ever dog-fox hybrid!
That means the creature’s parents were a dog and a fox, two distinct animals despite their similar “pooch-like” appearance. The first question most would ask is, “How did completely different animals breed?” Second, how could they possibly meet, and what are the potential implications of such a strange animal?
Let’s explore those questions in this article. It will explain possible factors that led to the creation of this dog-fox hybrid. Later, I will discuss the peculiar creature’s ultimate fate.
How did experts confirm the dog-fox hybrid?
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) September 13, 2023
National Geographic explained how scientists verify the dog-fox creature. They named this female hybrid “Dogxim.” it is a portmanteau of “dog” and “graxaim do campo,” the Portuguese name for Pampas fox.
First, they counted its chromosomes to confirm whether it was one-of-a-kind. It would have the same chromosome count as other known animals if it weren’t a unique hybrid.
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The experts determined the dog-fox had 76, which is the same as the maned wolf or Chrysocyon brachyurus. However, its characteristics disqualified it as a possible parent of this hybrid.
Domestic dogs have 78 chromosomes, and Pampas foxes have 74. Consequently, scientists believe the dog-fox hybrid’s 76 chromosomes may indicate “the first evidence of the hybridization.”
Second, geneticists checked its mitochondrial DNA, which would exclusively originate from its mother. They discovered it came from a Pampas fox. Examining its nuclear DNA revealed genetic information from a Pampas fox and a dog.
How is a dog-fox hybrid possible?
The website explained why foxes and dogs were distinct from each other. Both belonged to the same biological family, Canidae. However, dogs belong to the smaller group or genus Canis, and foxes diverged into the Vulpes category. The Dogxim’s mother was a Pampas fox under the genus Lycalopex.
Biologist Roland Kays highlighted how unique this dog-fox cross is. “Generally, in mammals, species breed with their own kind. Sometimes, if they haven’t been separated by that long of an evolutionary time period, you can get different species breeding.
“We see this happen with coyotes and wolves, occasionally, but this tends to occur when one of the animals is very common in a region, and the other is very rare.”
Rafael Kretschmer from the Universidade Federal de Pelotas shared ways a dog and a Pampas fox met and bred. First, Pampas foxes may have spread into domestic dog territory after losing their natural habitat to cattle ranches and human settlements.
The overlapping territories give them more opportunities to mate. Also, Dogxim study co-author Bruna Szynwelski said abandoned dogs could be another factor:
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“The practice of abandoning dogs is a crime in Brazil, but it still happens frequently. Pets and hunting dogs are often abandoned in natural areas by their owners, contributing to greater occurrence of dogs in natural habitats, including protected areas.”
Loren Rieseberg, a geneticist at the University of British Columbia, said, “Data suggest hybridization has been much more common during the evolution of plants and animals than previously suspected, including between deeply divergent lineages.”
It’s become more difficult to predict how species may develop as they adapt faster due to climate change. Also, Kays believes we’re unlikely to see more dog-fox hybrids.
A strange dog-like creature in Brazil was the first-ever dog-fox hybrid. Scientists considered it a curious case because cross-breeding between mammal species is rare.
Unfortunately, Dogxim died earlier this year due to unknown causes. National Geographic says the Brazilian government is investigating its death at the time of writing.
You can read more about the dog-fox hybrid on the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MPDI) website. Learn more about the latest digital tips and trends at Inquirer Tech.