High genomic diversity and candidate genes under selection associated with range expansion in eastern coyote (Canis latrans) populations

Elizabeth Heppenheimer, Kristin E. Brzeski, Joseph W. Hinton, Brent R. Patterson, Linda Y. Rutledge, Alexandra L. DeCandia, Tyler Wheeldon, Steven R. Fain, Paul A. Hohenlohe, Roland Kays, Bradley N. White, Michael J. Chamberlain, Bridgett Marie vonHoldt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Range expansion is a widespread biological process, with well-described theoretical expectations associated with the colonization of novel ranges. However, comparatively few empirical studies address the genomic outcomes accompanying the genome-wide consequences associated with the range expansion process, particularly in recent or ongoing expansions. Here, we assess two recent and distinct eastward expansion fronts of a highly mobile carnivore, the coyote (Canis latrans), to investigate patterns of genomic diversity and identify variants that may have been under selection during range expansion. Using a restriction-associated DNA sequencing (RADseq), we genotyped 394 coyotes at 22,935 SNPs and found that overall population structure corresponded to their 19th century historical range and two distinct populations that expanded during the 20th century. Counter to theoretical expectations for populations to bottleneck during range expansions, we observed minimal evidence for decreased genomic diversity across coyotes sampled along either expansion front, which is likely due to hybridization with other Canis species. Furthermore, we identified 12 SNPs, located either within genes or putative regulatory regions, that were consistently associated with range expansion. Of these 12 genes, three (CACNA1C, ALK, and EPHA6) have putative functions related to dispersal, including habituation to novel environments and spatial learning, consistent with the expectations for traits under selection during range expansion. Although coyote colonization of eastern North America is well-publicized, this study provides novel insights by identifying genes associated with dispersal capabilities in coyotes on the two eastern expansion fronts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12641-12655
Number of pages15
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology


  • RADseq
  • colonization
  • dispersal behavior
  • outlier SNPs
  • range expansion


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