Coyotes & Wolves: Yellowstone’s Evolutionary Cousins
July 19 - 22
Lamar Buffalo Ranch
Joanna Lambert, Ph.D.
In this seminar we will explore the exciting story of Yellowstone’s beloved evolutionary cousins: gray wolves (Canis lupus) and coyotes (Canis latrans). While fossils suggest that these two species diverged over a million years ago, more recent genetic analyses suggest that that this divergence may have been as recent as approximately 50,000 years ago – just a blink in evolutionary time! Yet while many similarities exist between these two species, important ecological and behavioral differences occur too. Gray wolves are distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Europe, and Asia), whereas coyotes are a true American species, found only in North and – now – Central America. Gray wolves will always seek out and spend their lives in social groups, while coyotes can live as solitary individuals. Both species were targeted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in US predator control campaigns, but though gray wolf numbers plummeted, teetering on the edge of extinction in the US by the 1960s, the distribution of coyotes has continuously expanded over the past 50+ years. What accounts for these differences? Just how similar are they? In the field, lecture, and film we will explore the evolutionary history of coyotes and wolves, observe and discuss their similarities and differences, and gain a rich appreciation of the behavior and ecology of these two iconic Yellowstone canids.
About the instructor
Joanna Lambert, Ph.D., is a scientist and tenured professor of animal evolutionary ecology and conservation biology at the University of Colorado – Boulder. She has a deep passion for the natural world resulting in a career spent publishing and teaching about the ecology, evolution, and conservation biology of wild mammals. Her wildlife research has taken her to every continent on the planet though she has spent most time working in equatorial Africa (>30 years) and more recently in Yellowstone National Park where she studies canid biology. One of her proudest recent conservation-related contributions has been in the effort to restore gray wolves to her home state of Colorado, an initiative founded on the science of reintroduction and recovery of wolves to Yellowstone National Park.
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Coyotes & Wolves: Yellowstone's Evolutionary Cousins Course Letter
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