Coywolves; hybrid wolf-coyotes in New England?

By Razib Khan | November 30, 2009 1:24 pm

This article pointed me to this interesting paper, Rapid adaptive evolution of northeastern coyotes via hybridization with wolves:

The dramatic expansion of the geographical range of coyotes over the last 90 years is partly explained by changes to the landscape and local extinctions of wolves, but hybridization may also have facilitated their movement. We present mtDNA sequence data from 686 eastern coyotes and measurements of 196 skulls related to their two-front colonization pattern. We find evidence for hybridization with Great Lakes wolves only along the northern front, which is correlated with larger skull size, increased sexual dimorphism and a five times faster colonization rate than the southern front. Northeastern haplotype diversity is low, suggesting that this population was founded by very few females moving across the Saint Lawrence River. This northern front then spread south and west, eventually coming in contact with an expanding front of non-hybrid coyotes in western New York and Pennsylvania. We suggest that hybridization with wolves in Canada introduced adaptive variation that contributed to larger size, which in turn allowed eastern coyotes to better hunt deer, allowing a more rapid colonization of new areas than coyotes without introgressed wolf genes. Thus, hybridization is a conduit by which genetic variation from an extirpated species has been reintroduced into northeastern USA, enabling northeastern coyotes to occupy a portion of the niche left vacant by wolves.

Here is a figure which shows the distribution of mtDNA lineages geographically:


coywolfmtdna.png
The gray sections of the bar graph represent coyotes. The non-gray are non-coyotes.
Citation: Roland Kays, Abigail Curtis, and Jeremy J. Kirchman, Rapid adaptive evolution of northeastern coyotes via hybridization with wolves, Biol. Lett. published online before print September 23, 2009, doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.0575

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Genetics
  • bioIgnoramus

    I hope they’ll do a follow-up on the hybridisation of bankers and wolves.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr lester

    I live a little ways above the arrow in the last wheel at more or less the indentation in massachusetts there. I was babysitting my sisters kids yesterday morning, at a school playground scarly enough, and one of these wolfotes whatever you want to call them showed up. I apparently said “good god let’s get out of here” but don’t remember doing so. the woman who told us about it called it a wolf and I called it a coyote so yeah, this article seems spot on

  • Rob Jase

    I dunno but I’ve seen coyotes here in Connecticut that eat a German Sherpard for lunch.

  • Jim Thomerson

    My uncle was federal predator control agent on the Texas-Mexico border. He said that feral domestic dogs were the most difficult to control (kill, and that domestic dog x coyote hybrids were next.

  • http://sciencenotes.wordpress.com/ Monado, FCD

    I’ve never heard of a Great Lakes wolf. I thought there were timber (grey) wolves and Arctic wolves and perhaps red wolves, which seem to be a wolf-coyote variation.
    A young woman was killed by two coyotes while hiking in a provincial park in Nova Scotia several weeks ago, which is unusually aggressive behaviour for coyotes. I think I’ll start carrying a stout stick on my walks.

  • Christopher Guerra

    What about the Cougars that stalk me all the time *no thanks to my young looking face*

  • Ray T. Perreault

    In South Louisiana, we have been having what we call coydogs for about 10 years. From what we have seen and killed, and otherwise observed, they are coyote/wolf/feral dog mixes. I have seen a former den, and collected tan hairs, and have seen a few of them. They are timid towards people, and prefer staying out of sight.

  • Shane

    It is true, have evidence in posession. If you look at the skull configutation of a true yote and compare it to that of a wolf, the evidence is clear. A skull collector friend has reference material that clearly defines a species by its bone structure and shows comparisons for similar species so that species is not mis identified. We have skulls from “coyote” shot in Maine. THe lobe area over and behind eye socket is very defined in a wolf and very shallow in a true yote. THese maine coyote skulls have a high defined lobe. I believe, much to the political contrary of Fish and Wildlife, that we have a brand of eastern wolf growing here in Maine. Very territorial and large packs exist here in Somerset county.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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