Songdog Science: The Sub-Species of Coyotes

Coyotes can be found throughout North and Central America, from open plains and mountains to inner cities.

Songdog Science: The Sub-Species of Coyotes

Science and the outdoors always interested me in school, although as with any course of study there were some things that were boring. For example, Mendel's work with inheritance traits in peas made my brain stop working.

But one thing that many years later still sticks from freshman biology is the taxonomy of plants and animals. Our teacher, who was great, drilled into our mushmelon heads the following: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. It helped that the series is alliterative. I may not recall everything from that year but those seven words stick out.

Taxonomy is the biological classification of something, mainly organisms, based on similar characteristics. And then you have sub-orders to further separate things. Whales are classified in the order cetacea, but two sub-orders list 11 toothed whales and balleen whales.

For birds, consider the American Robin. The description would be:






Animals with backbones



Animals called Birds



Birds that perch



All Thrushes



Similar Thrushes


Turdus migratorius

American Robin

Still with us? Didn't mean to get too far into the weeds but its interesting to see some of the scientific breakdown of some of the fins, fur and feathers we pursue.

Regarding coyotes, we often think about Eastern and Western coyotes, with often size and fur color being the main or obvious differences discussed in stories or camps. It's true that we may see some larger coyotes in the East or Southeast, perhaps, with the thought that there's more food availble in those areas than in the hardscrabble desert landscapes.

Whatever the reasons, we know (or believe) that a coyote in Texas or Kansas or the Badlands probably will weigh less than one in Alabama or Ohio. But another possibility is that the sub-species have different sizes (or maybe fur color) after adapting to their surroundings. Would a scrawny coyote seeking jackrabbits in Oklahoma pack on some pounds if it lived in Georgia, where it might find more gardens, rabbits, varmints and other goodies?

I never knew how many subspecies of coyotes existed until looking online. I figured there were a handful, but not 19 of them. That's a bunch! According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the coyote's breakdown is:

Kingdom: Animali
Subkingdom: Bilateria
Infrakingdom: Deuterostomi
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrat
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclass: Tetrapod
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Theria
Infraclass: Eutheri
Order: Carnivor
Suborder: Caniformia
Family: Canidae
Genus and species: Canis latrans

As for subspecies, take a look:

  • Canis latrans cagottis (Mexican coyote)
  • Canis latrans clepticus (San Pedro Martir coyote)
  • Canis latrans dickeyi (Salvador coyote)
  • Canis latrans frustror (southeastern coyote)
  • Canis latrans goldmani (Belize coyote)
  • Canis latrans hondurensis (Honduras coyote)
  • Canis latrans impavidus (Durango coyote)
  • Canis latrans incolatus (northern coyote)
  • Canis latrans jamesi (Tiburón coyote)
  • Canis latrans latrans (plains coyote)
  • Canis latrans lestes (mountain coyote)
  • Canis latrans mearnsi (Mearns coyote)
  • Canis latrans microdon (Lower Rio Grande coyote)
  • Canis latrans ochropus (California valley coyote)
  • Canis latrans peninsulae (peninsula coyote)
  • Canis latrans texensis (Texas plains coyote)
  • Canis latrans thamnos (northeastern coyote)
  • Canis latrans umpquensis (northwest coast coyote)
  • Canis latrans vigilis (Colima coyote)

Coyotes have expanded their range over centuries, moving eastward until now they're found throughout the country. From the sightings in Central Park to a hunting tract in Florida and parks in California, along with Canada, Mexico and Central America, this definitely is one smart, adaptable and interesting animal.


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