High-throughput genotyping technologies developed for model species can potentially increase the resolution of demographic history and ancestry in wild relatives. We use a SNP genotyping microarray developed for the domestic dog to assay variation in over 48K loci in wolf-like species worldwide. Despite the high mobility of these large carnivores, we find distinct hierarchical population units within gray wolves and coyotes that correspond with geographic and ecologic differences among populations. Further, we test controversial theories about the ancestry of the Great Lakes wolf and red wolf using an analysis of haplotype blocks across all 38 canid autosomes. We find that these enigmatic canids are highly admixed varieties derived from gray wolves and coyotes, respectively. This divergent genomic history suggests that they do not have a shared recent ancestry as proposed by previous researchers. Interspecific hybridization, as well as the process of evolutionary divergence, may be responsible for the observed phenotypic distinction of both forms. Such admixture complicates decisions regarding endangered species restoration and protection.
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