Coyotes have spread in North America, but when they immigrated and where they came from was hotly debated. With fossils and fossils, a team of experts has gained an unprecedented history of coyotes.
At a time when most other mammal species were crashing, the coyotes exploded in much of North America since 1900 was well documented at the local and state level, but a thorough investigation was needed to provide a continental overview of the distribution of coyotes to obtain.
Co-author of the study Dr. Roland Kays is the director of the Biodiversity Laboratory at the [
"We began mapping the original series of coyotes with archaeological and fossil records," Dr. Kays. "Then we planned their distribution in North America from 1900 to 2016 using museum specimens, peer-reviewed reports, and game department records."
The team reviewed more than 12,500 records over the last 10,000 years.
The investigation found that coyotes historically occupied a larger area of North America than what had previously been realized. Ancient coyotes were believed to be confined to the central deserts and grasslands, but fossils from the western region of the continent proved that their geographical extent was much wider for hundreds to thousands of years.
Around 1920, coyotes began expanding across North America, probably due to agricultural expansion, fragmentation of the forest, and hybridization with other species.
Dr. Kays noted that after crossing the Panama Canal in 2010, coyotes are also expanding their range in Central America. Coyotes were recently discovered as they approached the Darien Gap, a heavily forested region that separates North and South America, suggesting they will soon become more than just a North American species.
"The expansion of coyotes across the Americas provides an incredible experiment to evaluate ecological issues about their role as predators and evolutionary issues related to their hybridization with dogs and wolves, "said study author James Hody.
"By collecting and mapping this museum data, we were able to correct old misconceptions about their original reach and more accurately map and date their recent extensions."
"We hope these maps provide a useful context for future research into the ecology and evolution of this incredibly adaptive carnivore."
The study was published in the journal ZooKeys 
by  Chrissy Sexton Earth.com Staff Writer