Why coyotes are not basal Canis

The traditional understanding of coyote evolution is that coyotes are basal wolf-like canids. This understanding comes from the hypothesis that coyotes directly evolved from Canis lepophagus in North America alone. Coyotes look and behave a lot like jackals of the Old World, and because we know that the larger wolf-like canids evolved from jackal-like ones, we just assumed that the coyote was a primitive form.

One problem with this positioning has always bothered me. Jackals tend to have proportionally smaller brains than wolves, but coyotes have proportionally larger brains than wolves. Domestic dogs have evolved smaller brains from wolves, although wolf and dog brain size comparisons aren’t as cut and dry as people think. 

No one thinks of dogs as basal forms of Canis, so it is possible for animals in this lineage to lose brain size, just as it is possible for a primitive lineage of canids known as coyotes to evolve a larger brain.

Please note that my discussion on brain size here isn’t really a discussion about intelligence, because the literature on which form is most intelligent is quite all over the map. Domestic dogs kept in Western countries in the modern way do appear to have social cognitive abilities that virtually all other species lack, while wolves are much better at working with each other to complete tasks.

But coyotes have proportionally larger brains than either wolves or dog do, and in this lineage, larger brains are generally a derived characteristic.

However, the really important data about coyote evolution is the discovery that they shared a common ancestor with gray wolves much more recently than commonly suggested. A genome-comparison study of various North American canids found that the common ancestor of both gray wolves and coyotes lived around 50,000 years ago. Because anatomically modern gray wolves replace the Mosbach wolf in the fossil record between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago, the ancestor of both had to have been a form of gray wolf from Eurasia.

The coyote is thus a jackal that has evolved in parallel out of the gray wolf lineage, which means it is not a primitive canid at all. It likely evolved this jackal -like morphology and behavior because the form of gray wolf that it derives from was unable to compete with the dire wolf, the American lion, the short-faced bear and the machairodonts as a top-level predator. It was forced to evolve a smaller body that could be fed on carrion and small prey.

We know now that there is a big difference in what prey predators target once they exceed 20 kg. Predators that weigh more than that mass target large vertebrates, while those that are smaller than that weight target smaller prey. Although coyotes do cooperatively hunt deer, they primarily feed on rabbits and mice. So by becoming smaller, coyotes were not directly in conflict with dire wolves or the other large predators of Pleistocene North America.

Only through analyzing full genomes of coyotes and gray wolves did we realize that our assumptions about their evolution were wrong. Earlier studies that looked at mitochondrial DNA alone found that coyotes fit within a basal position of the wolf-like canid lineage. However, recent full genome comparison of various wolf-like canids that looked at the role hybridization played in their evolution found something interesting. The lineage that leads to wolves, dogs, and coyotes experienced some introgression from a ghost species that was closely related to the dhole. The authors think that the reason why coyotes turn up so basal in these mitochondrial DNA studies but appear so wolf-like when their full genomes are compared is coyotes have retained a mitochondrial line that comes from that ghost species.

So the generalist coyote is a re-invention out of the gray wolf lineage. It is not basal to the wolf-like canids. It just merely resembles the basal forms in some of their ecology, in some of their behavior, and in their odd mitochondrial inheritance.

Natural History

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Gentle hands

Kind hands protect a young Jack Russell terrier puppy.
RIVIERA DOGS

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Proud Mama

Proud Mama in Naples.
RIVIERA DOGS

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Friday Funny: Looking for a Good Roofer?

Here’s hoping you don’t need any roof repairs this weekend! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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Election Day

There’s only one thing to do today … turn off the television and go love your dog!
RIVIERA DOGS

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What Do Vegans Feed Their Pets?

Embracing a plant-based lifestyle may start with what’s on your plate, but whether you’re vegan for health, humane, or environmental reasons, for lots of people it’s not just a diet, but a way of life. Being vegan can affect nearly every purchasing decision, so it’s only natural to think about how it affects pets’ diets. 

So, what do vegans and vegetarians feed their cats and dogs?
Due to the distinct differences in their physiology, we have to look at dogs and cats separately. Dogs are omnivores. Thanks in part to living with us for thousands of years (and enjoying food that “falls” off our plates), dogs’ digestive systems have evolved to support a more starch-rich diet. Dogs have a dietary requirement for specific nutrients. Those nutrients can come from meat or they can come from plant-based sources. So, many people who choose not to eat meat choose to feed their dog vegan dog food, like Halo’s Garden of Vegan.

What about vegan cat food?
Unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning there are nutrients cats need that they cannot get from a vegetarian diet. So, from a health standpoint, real, whole meat cat food delivers the nutrients they need. But what about pet parents who are concerned about the treatment of our life-giving animals and the environmental impact of pet food? In the U.S., dogs’ and cats’ diets are responsible for “25-30% of animal production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and biocides,” according to a 2017 study.

That’s why Halo commits to ethical and sustainable agricultural practices. Our promise of OrigiNative® sourcing means we work with farmers who treat animals with respect and help maintain a regenerative ecosystem by using original animal husbandry and farming practices and rearing animals in their native environments. To ensure the OrigiNative® philosophy is followed, Halo’s meat proteins are GAP (Global Animal Partnership®) certified humane, and our fish is MSC (Marine Stewardship Council®) certified sustainably caught. Plus, all of the fruits and vegetables Halo uses are non-GMO.

Vegans, vegetarians, and other animal lovers and advocates who want pet food they can feel good about can find great choices with Halo. Through our mission to change the way companion animals are fed and farm animals are raised…for the better, we offer canned vegan dog food, dry vegan dog food, and vegan dog treats, as well as dog food and cat food made with third-party certified humane and sustainable proteins.

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Prosperous Pet Business Online Conference

You may have already heard about the worldwide Prosperous Pet Business Online Conference hosted by Kristin Morrison.

What you might not have heard is that we are sponsoring this event!

And…it’s a no-cost conference and you can watch, listen and learn from wherever you are in the world.

There are so many great speakers lined up to speak including Victoria Stilwell and Ian Dunbar as well as Patti Moran plus many other top pet business experts.

We at PetsitUSA would love to have you join us and the thousands of pet business owners who are ready to make big shifts in their pet businesses by attending the (no cost!) Prosperous Pet Business Online Conference.

This conference has the capacity to shift you from feeling stuck, stressed, or confused to moving forward in your pet business and your life in an empowered and fulfilling way.

The purpose of this conference is to help you make more money in your pet sitting and dog walking business as well as have you experience more ease and freedom in running your business.

Imagine being able to tap into the minds of successful pet business experts at no cost. This online conference is equivalent to a mentor mastermind worth thousands of dollars, and it’s your gift for NO COST.

If you are ready for real change in your business and your life, we invite you and all pet business owners to join me for the upcoming conference.

Please join PetsitUSA, the many pet business speakers and thousands of pet business owners just like you at the NO COST Prosperous Pet Business Online Conference.


PetsitUSA Blog

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Hudson

“With every damn dog I love, I learn something I didn’t know.”

Since I’ve been off the road from the West Coast Walk and perhaps what I witnessed while on it, I’ve been wondering why Hudson has had 3 mast cell tumors in less than 2 years despite favorable path reports and negative genetic indicators.  

Even though we’ve had two allergy tests on him for some odd reason I never thought to consult an allergist.  Until Tuesday.  We met with Dr. Shanley at Hope Vet Specialists in Malvern PA on our way to the Puppy Up Walk in Madison WI and our conversation confirmed that I’m not alone in my suspicions that there may be a correlation between allergy prone dogs and mast cell tumors.  


That Hudson is my third son with cancer, I always feel I’m so far behind no matter how far I walk.  

  

2 Dogs 2000 Miles

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Win Innovet Hemp CBD Products for Your Dog! #cbdfordogs

This holiday season, the weather outside may be frightful–but relief from arthritis pain really is delightful. As I told you in a recent post, Tiki has been taking Innovet Hemp Dog Treats and…



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DogTipper

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How to Help Your Dog Feel Comfortable with Holiday Guests

This post is sponsored by CEVA Animal Health, makers of ADAPTIL® for dogs. All statements and opinions are entirely our own. As always, we only share products that we use with our own pets! Let’s be…



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DogTipper

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