We have built an online virtual museum of coyote skull specimens to provide calibrated photographs from around North America. Curricular ideas based on the skulls be found here. Measurements can be made from the photographs by students, educators, and researchers; paper validating the technique is here. Collaborators are welcome to provide photographs of other coyote skulls to complement our collection. We have photographed the coyote snd domestic dog skull collections at Saint Michael's College and anticipate adding representatives of other species as time permits.
We published a lab activity that walks students through data gathering and comparisons using the virtual collection. Click to Download
Population-level questions using coyotes
- Are northeast coyote skulls larger than north west skulls?
- Does skull size increase as we move from the desert southwest to the northwest?
Dealing with gender
Male coyotes are larger than females. But we do not know the gender of the specimens on this site. One way to deal with that would be to compare the largest (and probably male) skulls in one region to the largest skulls from another region. It's probably not safe to assume that the smallest are all female; small skulls may come from juveniles of either gender.
Inter-specific comparisons with domestic dogs
We added a collection of about 25 domestic dog skulls to provide a comparison to an artificially selected domestic species. New specimens were recently added to the collection and will be photographed as time permits.
- How does overall variability compare between the artificially selected domestic dogs and naturally selected coyotes?
- Is it reasonable to expect coyotes to have been more perfectly honed by natural selection? We know that artificial selection of dogs has resulted in phenotypes that might be far from perfect in wild environments. But how might one measure perfection? Symmetry might be a reasonable measure. Domestic dogs are artificially selected for traits of human choosing rather than of physiological adaptive advantage. Are domestic dogs less symmetrical than coyotes?
Statistical tests that could be practiced
- One-way ANOVA or t test to compare categories.
- Measure effect sizes in addition to standard null-hypothesis testing approaches.
- Linear regression relating skull length to skull width or skull size Vs latitude.