It is relatively common to see black wolves in North America, but that was not always the case. In fact, the black colouration is actually, in evolutionary time, a recent coat colour inherited from none other then the domestic dog some 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. Genomic studies have shown that prior to this time there were no black wolves. However, this trait was common in dogs and through breeding between the two, this gene has since been incorporated into the North American wolf genome and has provided these wolves with an adaptive advantage. What that advantage is no one really knows. Theories include improved camouflage, which doesn’t hold a lot of weight when you consider that wolves are not ambush predators. Another is that black colouration is linked to other genes that enhance immune function, which would provide these individuals with an obvious advantage. However, this theory has holes as well because there aren’t any black Arctic wolves, which you would expect if black colouration provided such a clear immune advantage but. Whatever the reason, Banff National Park has one of, if not the highest proportion of black wolves anywhere. This black wolf pup is one of six pups born this spring in Banff National Park. Of those six pups, five are black.

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