Presentation Title

Urban Coyotes Differ Genetically From Coyotes in Natural Habitats

Faculty Mentor

Javier Monzon

Start Date

17-11-2018 8:15 AM

End Date

17-11-2018 8:30 AM

Location

C161

Session

Oral 1

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

biological_agricultural_sciences

Abstract

Human activities, such as urbanization, impose a significant evolutionary force that can drive selection in organisms, perhaps even faster than nature. The Los Angeles metropolitan area includes the second largest city in the United states and consists of highly urban, suburban, rural, and wild/mountainous habitats. Coyotes (Canis latrans) occur throughout all terrestrial habitats of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, 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. Specifically, we investigated whether the population genetic structure of coyotes in the Los Angeles metropolitan area corresponds to patterns of human land use. We hypothesized that due to natal habitat biased dispersal, coyotes living in natural habitats will be more genetically related to other coyotes in similar natural habitats and less related to coyotes living in more urban habitats, despite geographic distance. We tested this hypothesis by analyzing 10 microsatellite genetic markers from 126 individual coyotes throughout Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange counties and combining the genetic data with detailed landcover data. Our results reveal that coyotes in the Los Angeles metropolitan area cluster into four significantly different genetic populations. Three populations (1, 2, and 4) are associated with primarily urbanized habitats in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. In contrast, population 3 is associated with areas that have more naturally vegetated land near the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Susana Mountains, Santa Ana Mountains, and Simi Hills. These results support our hypothesis that coyotes living in natural areas are genetically similar despite long geographic distances separating these areas. In a very short amount of time, urbanization has already affected the microevolution of coyotes, a species typically thought to be relatively insensitive to human disturbance.

Summary of research results to be presented

Our results reveal that coyotes in the Los Angeles metropolitan area cluster into four significantly different genetic populations. Three populations (1, 2, and 4) are associated with primarily urbanized habitats in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. In contrast, population 3 is associated with areas that have more naturally vegetated land near the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Susana Mountains, Santa Ana Mountains, and Simi Hills.

These results support our hypothesis that coyotes living in natural areas are genetically similar despite long geographic distances separating these areas. This is consistent with previous observations that population genetic structure corresponds to habitat type due to natal habitat biased dispersal (Sacks et al. 2004). However, we show for the first time that population genetic structure in coyotes corresponds to patterns of human land use.

In an very short amount of time, urbanization has already affected the microevolution of coyotes, a species typically thought to be relatively insensitive to human disturbance. Thus, it is crucial that we monitor how human activities impact wild populations living in and near cities.

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Nov 17th, 8:15 AM Nov 17th, 8:30 AM

Urban Coyotes Differ Genetically From Coyotes in Natural Habitats

C161

Human activities, such as urbanization, impose a significant evolutionary force that can drive selection in organisms, perhaps even faster than nature. The Los Angeles metropolitan area includes the second largest city in the United states and consists of highly urban, suburban, rural, and wild/mountainous habitats. Coyotes (Canis latrans) occur throughout all terrestrial habitats of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, 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. Specifically, we investigated whether the population genetic structure of coyotes in the Los Angeles metropolitan area corresponds to patterns of human land use. We hypothesized that due to natal habitat biased dispersal, coyotes living in natural habitats will be more genetically related to other coyotes in similar natural habitats and less related to coyotes living in more urban habitats, despite geographic distance. We tested this hypothesis by analyzing 10 microsatellite genetic markers from 126 individual coyotes throughout Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange counties and combining the genetic data with detailed landcover data. Our results reveal that coyotes in the Los Angeles metropolitan area cluster into four significantly different genetic populations. Three populations (1, 2, and 4) are associated with primarily urbanized habitats in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. In contrast, population 3 is associated with areas that have more naturally vegetated land near the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Susana Mountains, Santa Ana Mountains, and Simi Hills. These results support our hypothesis that coyotes living in natural areas are genetically similar despite long geographic distances separating these areas. In a very short amount of time, urbanization has already affected the microevolution of coyotes, a species typically thought to be relatively insensitive to human disturbance.