Coat Color Genetics of Coyotes, Emphasizing DNA Studies

A brief review of the genes controlling coyote coat colors. The photos of coyotes on this webpage were not the coyotoes actually DNA tested for the coat color they illustrate, contrary to my dog and cattle webpages. This is not ideal, but since I do not did not do all this research, it's the best I could do.

The photo of a wild coyote crossing a trail, at the right, was taken years ago by the late Dan Wood. It illustrates the tawny coloration that is typical of most coyotes.


This webpage was mounted on October 2, 2014 and last updated on October 6, 2014 by Sheila Schmutz. sheila.schmutz@usask.ca


DNA Studies To Date

Coyotes have an extremely wide range but do not seem to have as much coat color variation as the wolf or dog.


ASIP

In a DNA study of the agouti signal protein (ASIP) in coyotes, wolves, and dogs we found that there was one base pair difference in exon 4 between the coyote and wolf. However, because this base pair change did not change the amino acid, it probably has not effect on the peptide or coat color. The dog has mutations in exon 4 that affect coat color and so these could be used to prove that there are coydogs, or coyote dog hybrids.

A study by Brockerville et al. (2013) found a polymorphism in coyotes in the 5' region of ASIP, and another in an intron near exon 2.

  • Schmutz, S. M., T. G. Berryere, J. L. Barta, K.D. Reddick, and J. K. Schmutz 2007. Agouti sequence polymorphisms in coyotes, wolves and dogs suggest hybridization Journal of Heredity 98:351-355.
  • coyote ASIPExon 4 sequence in GenBank


    MC1R

    A recent study of coyotes from Newfoundland and Labrador involved the MC1R gene. Some very pale, almost white coyotes had been observed. The authors found that the dog mutation Arg306ter, commonly known as the "e" allele was homozyougs in these coyotes. They concluded that this allele was the result of dog-coyote hybridization.

    The photograph is a mounted specimen on display at the Salmonier Nature Park in Newfoundlnad. Photo by Michael Blackwood.

    They also found additional polymorphisms, including some that changed amino acids, but none were associated with the very pale coat color. Two, F45L and G102A, have not been observed in dogs.

  • Brockerville RM, McGrath MJ, Pilgrim BL, Marshall HD. 2013. Sequence analysis of three pigmentation genes in the Newfoundland population of Canis latrans links the Golden Retriever MC1R variant to white coat color in coyotes. Mammalian Genome 24:134-141.
  • coyote MC1Rsequence in GenBank


    DEFB103

    Brockerville et al. (2013) also studied the K locus in coyotes from Newfoundland. They found 3 polymorphisms in introns but no coding sequence changes. They particularly noted that the KB allele or 3 bp deletion of a glycine that causes black coat color in many breeds of dogs, and also in some black wolves, was not found. Since this is a dominant allele and none of the coyotes they studied were black, this would be expected.


    Links to Related Sites


    for further information contact:

    Sheila M. Schmutz, Ph.D., Professor

    Department of Animal and Poultry Science

    College of Agriculture and Bioresources

    University of Saskatchewan

    Saskatoon, Canada S7N 5A8

    e-mail sheila.schmutz@usask.ca