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The world’s first-ever dog-fox hybrid had been found, now dubbed the “dogxim.” This extraordinary discovery began in 2021 when an animal rescue team rushed to the scene in Vacaria, Rio Grande do Sul, responding to reports of an injured creature involved in a hit-and-run incident.
The severely injured animal was transferred to the veterinary hospital of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), setting the stage for an incredible scientific journey. From there, it found its way to the Center for Conservation and Rehabilitation of Wild Animals.
Researchers and veterinarians, couldn’t help but notice the peculiar features of the animal. Cristina Araujo Matzenbacher, a researcher, said, “She had eyes resembling a domestic dog, and long ears resembling a pampas fox, although she had a dark coat and barked like a dog.”
Source: News Mobile/Youtube
Curiously, when offered typical dog food, the animal refused, opting instead for small rats—an inclination more akin to pampas fox behavior. Another significant observation happened when the hybrid scaled a nearby bush, a behavior not typically associated with domestic dogs.
Recognizing the uniqueness of the situation, veterinarian Flavia Ferrari reached out to Thales Renato Ochotorena de Freitas, a genetics professor at the Federal University of Pelotas. This marked the beginning of an intriguing scientific investigation.
In August 2023, a paper unveiled the world’s first dog-fox hybrid. Scientists initially used cytogenetics and genetics techniques to explore the creature’s genetic makeup, uncovering a vital clue—76 chromosomes. Pampas foxes typically possess 74 chromosomes, while domestic dogs have 78. This chromosome count precisely matched the dogxim’s makeup, a testament to its hybrid nature.
Mitochondrial DNA analysis, which is inherited exclusively from the mother, provided further confirmation. It conclusively revealed that the dogxim’s mother was a pampas fox. In the nuclear DNA, researchers detected a blend of genetic material from both domestic dogs and pampas foxes, solidifying the presence of hybridization in this unique specimen.
The discovery of the dog-fox hybrid raises intriguing questions about the possibility of other hybrids in the region. While scientific evidence is currently lacking, suspicions persist, particularly after biologist Herbert Hasse Junior reported two animals with unusual phenotypes in nature in 2019, one of which might have been the female hybrid tragically run over in 2021.
From a wildlife Conservation perspective, the dogxim’s emergence poses concerns. Hybridization between a domestic dog and a pampas fox could potentially harm pampas fox populations due to introgression and the risk of disease transmission from dogs. The hybrid’s distinct appearance also presents challenges for adaptation and survival in the natural habitat.
While the dogxim eventually recovered from its hit-and-run injuries, it sadly passed away around six months ago, leaving researchers with unanswered questions.
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