• Open Access

Canid hybridization: contemporary evolution in human-modified landscapes


  • We gratefully acknowledge funding from Fonds québécoise de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies (FQRNT), Environment Canada and the Strategic Technology Applications of Genomics in the Environment (STAGE) program, the Canadian Wildlife Federation, Parks Canada, Université de Montréal, and ConservAction ACGT Inc.


Astrid Vik Stronen, Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, ul. Waszkiewicza 1, 17-230 Białowieża, Poland. Tel: +48 856 827 774; Fax: 48 856 827 752; E-mail: avstronen@ibs.bialowieza.pl


Contemporary evolution through human-induced hybridization occurs throughout the taxonomic range. Formerly allopatric species appear especially susceptible to hybridization. Consequently, hybridization is expected to be more common in regions with recent sympatry owing to human activity than in areas of historical range overlap. Coyotes ( Canis latrans) and gray wolves ( C. lupus) are historically sympatric in western North America. Following European settlement gray wolf range contracted, whereas coyote range expanded to include eastern North America. Furthermore, wolves with New World (NW) mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes now extend from Manitoba to Québec in Canada and hybridize with gray wolves and coyotes. Using mtDNA and 12 microsatellite markers, we evaluated levels of wolf-coyote hybridization in regions where coyotes were present (the Canadian Prairies, n = 109 samples) and absent historically (Québec, n = 154). Wolves with NW mtDNA extended from central Saskatchewan (51°N, 69°W) to northeastern Québec (54°N, 108°W). On the Prairies, 6.3% of coyotes and 9.2% of wolves had genetic profiles suggesting wolf-coyote hybridization. In contrast, 12.6% of coyotes and 37.4% of wolves in Québec had profiles indicating hybrid origin. Wolves with NW and Old World ( C. lupus) mtDNA appear to form integrated populations in both regions. Our results suggest that hybridization is more frequent in historically allopatric populations. Range shifts, now expected across taxa following climate change and other human influence on the environment, might therefore promote contemporary evolution by hybridization.