Preliminary DNA analysis completed on California wolverine

April 3, 2008
Scientists Believe Photograph Depicts Wolverine in California
Scientists believe a wolverine was photographed with a remote-controlled camera on Feb. 28 on the Tahoe National Forest. Evidence of wolverines in California has not been scientifically verified since the 1920s. Credit: US Forest Service, Oregon State University photo

Preliminary results from DNA analysis of wolverine scat samples collected on the Tahoe National Forest do not match those of historic California wolverine populations, according to U.S. Forest Service scientists.

Geneticists with the agency’s Rocky Mountain Research Station recently began analyzing samples, when wildlife biologists with the Tahoe National Forest and California Department of Fish and Game began sending hair and scat samples they collected from wolverine detection sites on the national forest to a lab in Missoula, Mont.

The interagency effort began in March after an Oregon State University graduate student working on a cooperative project with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station photographed a wolverine, an animal whose presence has not been confirmed in California since the 1920s.

DNA analysis is critical to scientists working to determine if the animal first photographed on February 28 and in later detection work is a wolverine that dispersed from outside of California, escaped from captivity or is part of a historic remnant population.

Key findings from the preliminary analysis indicate the animal in the photographs is a male wolverine that is not a descendent of the last known Southern Sierra Nevada population, said Bill Zielinski, a Forest Service scientist with the Pacific Southwest Research Station and an expert at detecting wolverine, marten and fisher. It also does not genetically match populations in Washington, he said.

U.S. populations are found largely in the Northern Cascades in Washington, and Northern Rockies in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The nearest known resident population is about 600 miles northeast of the Tahoe National Forest in Idaho’s Sawtooth Range.

Scientists determined the sample is a haplotype A, which is a genetic type that is found throughout the Rocky Mountains, Alaska and Canada, according to Michael Schwartz, conservation genetics team leader at the Rocky Mountain Research Station. He said haplotype A is not found in historic California samples or in the Cascade Range.

Additional analysis of the wolverine DNA to pinpoint this animal’s origin will be conducted by the Rocky Mountain Research Station and independent labs, Schwartz said.

“We can exclude the Washington and the Southern Sierra Nevada populations from haplotype A, but more information about the population of origin will be investigated through additional genetic analysis,” Zielinski said.

Genetic samples for historic California wolverine populations were gathered from museum pieces, fur pelts and scientific specimens, he said.

Source: US Forest Service

Explore further: Officials confirm first sighting of rare fox at Yosemite in nearly 100 years

Related Stories

Panel calls for protecting world's largest forest

August 2, 2013

At least half of Canada's 1.4 billion acre boreal forest, the largest remaining intact wilderness on Earth, must be protected to maintain the area's current wildlife and ecological systems, according to a report by an international ...

Recommended for you

Researchers build bacteria's photosynthetic engine

July 29, 2015

Nearly all life on Earth depends on photosynthesis, the conversion of light energy into chemical energy. Oxygen-producing plants and cyanobacteria perfected this process 2.7 billion years ago. But the first photosynthetic ...

Dense star clusters shown to be binary black hole factories

July 29, 2015

The coalescence of two black holes—a very violent and exotic event—is one of the most sought-after observations of modern astronomy. But, as these mergers emit no light of any kind, finding such elusive events has been ...

Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

July 29, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibers. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water resistant.

Scientists unlock secrets of stars through aluminium

July 29, 2015

Physicists at the University of York have revealed a new understanding of nucleosynthesis in stars, providing insight into the role massive stars play in the evolution of the Milky Way and the origins of the Solar System.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.