Conservation Science Blog

New research relevant to conservation in western North America

The Conservation Science Blog is intended to bring new and relevant research to the attention of conservation scientists, and facilitate discussion on how to apply this science to further conservation goals in western North America.

Comprehensive analysis of wolf genome suggests new conservation priorities

Sorry I haven’t had time to post recently (did you know there’s an entire blog devoted to that topic?), but today I hope to get caught up on a few new papers that shed light on topical conservation issues such as wolf recovery.

Bridget vonHoldt and colleagues have performed the most comprehensive assessment to date on genetic diversity in the wolf. Genotyping arrays developed for dogs, that assay 48,000 areas on the genome, were applied to determine relatedness among the world’s wolves. In contrast, just a few years ago such genetic assessments could examine perhaps dozens of fragments of the genome.

The results suggested several conclusions that are relevant to wolf conservation:

Even within gray wolves, a species with high dispersal abilities, regional and continental patterns of genetic subdivision are found.

Specifically, Old World wolf populations from Italy, Spain, and Eastern/Northern Europe comprised distinct units that correspond to three well-accepted Ice Age refugia.

Other genetically distinct populations include Eastern and Northern Europe, China, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia.

In the New World, Mexican wolves appear as themost genetically distinct group, corroborating the hypothesis that this subspecies is a remnant of an ancient invasion from Eurasia and of conservation importance.

Other genetic partitions were defined in North America as well, including distinct populations on the British Columbian coast, Northern Quebec, and interior North America.

In high mobile carnivores, ecology may have an important role in restricting gene flow among populations.

There’s more discussion of the study here.

The full paper is here.

Posted in Endangered species management |