Genetics of Urban Coyotes in Los Angeles

Urban coyotes are genetically distinct from and less diverse than coyotes in natural habitats.

Coyotes are found in highly urban, suburban, rural, and undeveloped habitats, making them an exemplary model organism to investigate the effects of urbanization on animals. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether urban coyotes differ genetically from coyotes in less developed habitats and to examine the effects of urbanization on the genetic diversity of coyotes. In the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area (LAMA), coyotes cluster into four significantly different genetic populations. Three populations are associated with primarily urbanized habitats in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. In contrast, the remaining population is associated with more naturally vegetated land near the surrounding mountains. Coyotes living in natural areas are genetically similar despite long geographic distances separating them. Genetic diversity is low in areas of high urban/suburban land cover and local road density. These results indicate that genetic differentiation and loss of genetic diversity coincided with the extremely rapid expansion of LAMA throughout the 1900s. Thus, urbanization reduces gene flow and erodes genetic diversity even in a habitat generalist species thought to be minimally impacted by land development.

On July 9, 2019 Wolf Conservation Center hosted Dr. Javier Monzón to offer a free webinar about the genetic diversity of coyotes in urban areas compared to those in more forested environments.

About The Speaker:

Dr. Javier Monzon is an ecologist and evolutionary biologist who has studied a variety of animals, including canaries, capuchin monkeys, hawk eagles, golden eagles, and ticks. However, most of his work has focused on the ecology and evolution of coyotes. Javier grew up in New York City, received a BA in Biology from Queens College and a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from Stony Brook University, and did a postdoc at the Center for Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook University. Javier is now in the biology faculty at Pepperdine University, where he conducts research on the coyotes of Southern California.

Monzon Photo Sm Credit

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