U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Journal of Heredity, 2017, 608–617 doi:10.1093/jhered/esx068.


Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Genetic Association 2017. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.


The expansion of coyotes (Canis latrans) into the eastern United States has had major consequences for ecological communities and wildlife managers. Despite this, there has been little investigation of the genetics of coyotes across much of this region, especially outside of the northeast. Understanding patterns of genetic structure and interspecific introgression would provide insights into the colonization history of the species, its response to the modern environment, and interactions with other canids. We examined the genetic characteristics of 121 coyotes from the mid-Atlantic states of West Virginia and Virginia by genotyping 17 polymorphic nuclear DNA microsatellite loci. These genotypes were compared with those from other canid populations to evaluate the extent of genetic introgression. We conducted spatial clustering analyses and spatial autocorrelation to assess genetic structure among sampled coyotes. Coyotes across the 2 states had high genetic diversity, and we found no evidence of genetic structure. Six to sixteen percent of individuals displayed some evidence of genetic introgression from other species depending on the method and criteria used, but the population possessed predominantly coyote ancestry. Our findings suggested introgression from other canid populations has played less of a role in shaping the genetic character of coyotes in these states compared with populations closer to the Canadian border. Coyotes appear to display a panmictic population structure despite high habitat heterogeneity and heavy human influence in the spatial environment, underscoring the adaptability of the species.

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