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Coyotes (Canis latrans) are relatively new members to the northeastern ecosystem. Although often seen as vermin, coyotes are interesting and important models for studying the genetics of expansion, hybridization, and colonization. Following the expulsion of gray wolves from the area, coyotes settled in the northeast after moving from the Midwest through Canada, where they admixed with eastern wolves (Canis lycaon), and are now our top predator. Currently, there are three populations of coyotes in the country: those in the Midwest, the northeast, and Ohio; and research has already been done on illuminating their distinct genomic histories. Furthermore, certain aspects of skull morphology differ significantly across populations, implying that the northeastern coyote has experienced introgression of wolf genes during their migration through Canada. Interest in canid skull shape is prevalent in recent genetic literature as research aims to understand the extreme phenotypic diversity of domesticated canine skulls, as dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are considered a model organism for studying evolution and genetics. In this project, I considered the possibility that certain genes influencing skull morphology in dogs and humans are undergoing directional selection in northeastern coyotes. Exploiting the close evolutionary relationship between dogs and coyotes, I designed primers to amplify two genes relating to skull morphology in the coyote genome—BMP3, a gene influencing osteoblast differentiation and TCOF1, a gene influencing craniofacial development—to find regions that are notably different between northeastern and Ohio coyotes. This would allow me to determine the level of differentiation between these populations.
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Troisi, Emma Charlotte, "Why do Coyotes in the Northeast Have Big Heads?: The Beginnings of an Investigation of Directional SElection on Skull Morphology Genes in Coyotes (Canis latrans)" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 345.