In a new study, published Oct. 17 in the Journal of Mammalogy, researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics used DNA from coyote scat (feces) to trace the route that led some of the animals to colonize in Northern Virginia. The researchers also confirmed that, along the way, the coyotes interbred with the native Great Lakes wolves.
According to the study, coyotes migrated eastward via two main routes—one that went through the northern United States, and one that went through the south. Using DNA samples, the researchers found that Virginian coyotes were most closely related to coyote populations in western New York and Pennsylvania. It appears the northern trekkers eventually encountered the Great Lakes wolves and interbred before converging again on the East Coast. They then gradually headed south along the Appalachian Mountains toward what is considered the Mid-Atlantic region, to an area centered around Virginia.
“The Mid-Atlantic region is a particularly interesting place because it appears to mark a convergence in northern and southern waves of coyote expansion,” said Christine Bozarth, an SCBI research fellow and lead author on the paper. “I like to call it the Mid-Atlantic melting pot.”
Bozarth and her colleagues collected scat samples in Northern Virginia from local coyote populations. They were then able to extract DNA from the intestinal cells in the scat and compare it to the DNA from preserved historic wolf specimens that had lived in the Great Lakes region before coyotes colonized the area. They shared some of the same genes, supporting the hybridization theory. Hybridization between canid species usually occurs when one species is rare. Those individuals may have trouble finding mates and therefore breed instead with closely related species.
“This does not mean that we have massive, wolf-like coyotes roaming around here in Virginia,” Bozarth said. “Coyotes with wolf ancestry have differently shaped jaws, which may allow them to fill different ecological niches. They tend to hunt small prey and scavenge large game, so hybrid coyotes might be helpful in controlling the overly abundant deer population.”
While coyote populations have been expanding, wolf populations have become endangered. Hybridization with coyotes is now a major threat to the recovery of wolves.
“For the past decade, our lab has developed and used noninvasive techniques to monitor and survey rare and endangered species in various regions of the world and in this study, we were able to show that noninvasive techniques can also be an effective tool for tracking the origins and movement patterns of this elusive canid,” Jesús Maldonado, SCBI research geneticist and paper co-author. “The admixed coyotes have also been found further south, into North Carolina, which brings the hybridized coyote into the range of the critically endangered red wolf, further complicating the issue.”
The study’s authors from SCBI are Bozarth, Maldonado and Frank Hailer (now a postdoctoral researcher at the Biodiversity and Climate Research Center in Frankfurt, Germany). Bozarth is currently an assistant professor in the science, technology and business division at Northern Virginia Community College. The additional authors are Larry Rockwood and Cody Edwards from the department of environmental science and policy at George Mason University.
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute plays a key role in the Smithsonian’s global efforts to understand and conserve species and train future generations of conservationists. Headquartered in Front Royal, Va., SCBI facilitates and promotes research programs based at Front Royal, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide.
Lindsay Renick Mayer | EurekAlert!
'Y' a protein unicorn might matter in glaucoma
23.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry
23.10.2017 | Rice University
Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
23.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
23.10.2017 | Life Sciences
23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine