Assessment of coyote–wolf–dog admixture using ancestry-informative diagnostic SNPs

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Abstract

The evolutionary importance of hybridization as a source of new adaptive genetic variation is rapidly gaining recognition. Hybridization between coyotes and wolves may have introduced adaptive alleles into the coyote gene pool that facilitated an expansion in their geographic range and dietary niche. Furthermore, hybridization between coyotes and domestic dogs may facilitate adaptation to human-dominated environments. We genotyped 63 ancestry-informative single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 427 canids to examine the prevalence, spatial distribution and the ecology of admixture in eastern coyotes. Using multivariate methods and Bayesian clustering analyses, we estimated the relative contributions of western coyotes, western and eastern wolves, and domestic dogs to the admixed ancestry of Ohio and eastern coyotes. We found that eastern coyotes form an extensive hybrid swarm, with all our samples having varying levels of admixture. Ohio coyotes, previously thought to be free of admixture, are also highly admixed with wolves and dogs. Coyotes in areas of high deer density are genetically more wolf-like, suggesting that natural selection for wolf-like traits may result in local adaptation at a fine geographic scale. Our results, in light of other previously published studies of admixture in Canis, revealed a pattern of sex-biased hybridization, presumably generated by male wolves and dogs mating with female coyotes. This study is the most comprehensive genetic survey of admixture in eastern coyotes and demonstrates that the frequency and scope of hybridization can be quantified with relatively few ancestry-informative markers.

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