Trapping Conservation and Self-Reliance News

Coyote: An Illusion of Barriers to Gene Flow in Suburban Coyotes
Apr 5, 2023 07:41 ET


Carnivores with large home ranges are especially vulnerable to habitat fragmentation. As coyotes (Canis latrans) are often found living in highly modified landscapes, it is unclear how urban and suburban development impact gene flow between their populations. This study evaluated gene flow among coyotes inhabiting California sage scrub fragments within the highly developed Pomona Valley, California. We genotyped microsatellites from scat samples collected from four study sites to examine population structure between coyotes separated by a major freeway, coyotes separated by suburban development, and finally, coyotes in contiguous, natural habitat sites over 15 months. Though coyotes from all four sites were genetically distinct, near-complete turnover of individuals in sites and examination of temporal genetic structure and relatedness within one site indicated the movement of family groups through natural fragments over time. Thus, we argue that solely examining spatial genetic structure may create the illusion of genetic barriers among coyote populations where they may not exist, and that incorporating temporal components of genetic variation is critical to understanding gene flow across space and time in highly mobile animals. Understanding how to better study and manage coyotes, an apex predator, is key to the conservation of the endangered California sage scrub ecosystem.
Keywords: habitat fragmentation; gene flow; population structure; southern California

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