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J Hered. 2020 Feb 24. pii: esaa006. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esaa006. [Epub ahead of print]

A Genome-wide perspective on the persistence of red wolf ancestry in southeastern canids.

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Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Guyot Hall, Princeton, NJ, USA.
Michigan Technological University, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Houghton, MI, USA.
Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, Forestry Drive, Syracuse, NY, USA.
Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, E Green Street, Athens, GA, USA.
Institute for Human Genetics, University of California, San Francisco, Parnassus Ave, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, Charles E Young Dr East, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


The red wolf (Canis rufus), a legally recognized and severely endangered wolf, is known to interbreed with coyotes (C. latrans). Declared extirpated in the wild in 1980, red wolves were reintroduced to North Carolina nearly a decade later. Interbreeding with coyotes was thought to be restricted to a narrow geographic region adjacent to the reintroduced population and largely believed to threaten red wolf recovery. However, red wolf ancestry has recently been discovered in canids along the American Gulf Coast, igniting a broader survey of endangered ancestry in southeastern canid populations. Here, we examine geographic and temporal patterns of genome-wide red wolf ancestry in 260 canids across the southeastern United States at over 164,000 SNP loci. We found that red wolf ancestry was most prevalent in canids sampled from Texas in the mid-1970s, although non-trivial amounts of red wolf ancestry persisted in this region today. Further, red wolf ancestry was also observed in coyotes of North Carolina, despite management efforts to limit the occurrence of hybridization events. Lastly, we found no evidence of substantial red wolf ancestry in southeastern canids outside of these two admixture zones. Overall, this study provides a genome-wide survey of red wolf ancestry in canids across the southeastern United States, which may ultimately inform future red wolf restoration efforts.


admixture; ancestry; conservation; genomics; introgression


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