Genome sequencing reveals extensive inbreeding in Scandinavian wolves

November 20, 2017, Uppsala University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Researchers from Uppsala University and others have for the first time determined the full genetic consequences of intense inbreeding in a threatened species. The large-scale genomic study of the Scandinavian wolf population is reported in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The Scandinavian wolf population was founded in the 1980s by only two individuals. This has subsequently led to intense inbreeding, which is considered a long-term threat to the population. To reveal the genetic consequences of inbreeding, the whole genome of some 100 Scandinavian has now been analysed.

'Inbreeding has been so extensive that some individuals have entire that completely lack genetic variation', says Hans Ellegren, Professor at the Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University and leader of the study. 'In such cases identical chromosome copies have been inherited from both parents.'

A surprising discovery was that also some immigrant wolves were partly inbred, and related. This was the case, for example, for two wolves that 2013 were translocated by management authorities from northernmost Sweden, due to conflict with reindeer husbandry, to southern Sweden. This is counter to the often-made assumption of unrelated and non-inbred founders when inbreeding is estimated from pedigrees.

'The degree of inbreeding determined at high precision with genome analysis agreed rather well with inbreeding estimated from established pedigrees', says Hans Ellegren. 'However, for stochastic reasons, some wolves were found to be a bit more, and others a bit less, inbred than estimated from pedigrees.'

Moreover, wolves were generally more inbred than expected from recent mating between relatives in the contemporary . This is because the two copies of a chromosome in an individual can originate from one and the same ancestor further back in time.

Explore further: Sweden resumes wolf hunt despite controversy

More information: Marty Kardos et al, Genomic consequences of intensive inbreeding in an isolated wolf population, Nature Ecology & Evolution (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0375-4

Related Stories

Sweden resumes wolf hunt despite controversy

January 31, 2013

Sweden is to resume its wolf hunt in what authorities have described as a bid to limit inbreeding and maintain healthy stocks, but environmentalists argued Thursday that the hunt violates EU law.

Sweden allows wolf hunt despite outcry

December 30, 2016

A top Swedish court on Friday allowed the hunting of 24 wolves early next year in a decision slammed by environmental campaigners who fear a shooting spree could put the species at risk.

XX protection against age-related mutations

July 20, 2016

Researchers at the University of Valencia's Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology have put the 'unguarded X hypothesis' to the test and confirmed that differences in lifespan between the sexes, a widespread ...

Male mice found able to bias gender ratios of offspring

August 30, 2017

An international team of researchers has discovered that contrary to conventional views, a male mammal was found able to exert inadvertent gender bias ratios in his offspring. In their paper published in the journal Proceedings ...

Species conservation poised to benefit from DNA advances

February 24, 2014

A biologist at the University of York is part of an international team which has shown that advanced DNA sequencing technologies can be used to accurately measure the levels of inbreeding in wild animal populations.

Recommended for you

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.