Genetics and genomics of Newfoundland canids: colonization, coat colour, and wildlife disease
The depauperate mammalian fauna of the island of Newfoundland is disproportionately allocated to large species, of which three are in the family Canidae: red foxes, eastern coyotes, and wolves. One of our research foci is to elucidate the genetics of these island canid populations, with respect to both evolutionary patterns and wildlife disease, using a combination of candidate gene sequencing, Ion Torrent mitochondrial genome sequencing, and canine genomewide expression microarrays. Here I will discuss the genetic basis of a white coat colour variant in Newfoundland coyotes, its relationship to the complex colonization history of this canid, and the link to a similar white coat polymorphism found in spirit bears on the west coast of Canada. I will also present some genetic results for two diseases in Newfoundland canids: one hereditary and the other parasitic. Using microarray expression analysis we have determined that the molecular etiology of hereditary hyperplastic gingivitis in silver foxes likely involves the mitogen-activated protein kinase cell signaling pathway; within this pathway we have identified candidate genes for this animal disease and perhaps for its human counterpart, hereditary gingival fibromatosis. Finally, aspects of the evolutionary genetics and transmission pattern of French heartworm, a parasitic disease of dogs, foxes, and coyotes whose only North American range is Newfoundland, will be inferred from mitochondrial genomes.