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Detection of an East European wolf haplotype puzzles mitochondrial DNA monomorphism of the Italian wolf population

Authors
Journal
Mammalian Biology - Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde
1616-5047
Publisher
Elsevier
Volume
78
Issue
5
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.mambio.2013.06.001
Keywords
  • Canis Lupus
  • Anthropogenic Introgression
  • Mitochondrial Dna
  • Non-Invasive Genetics
  • National Park Of Abruzzo

Abstract

Abstract Southern European wolves suffered from reiterated population declines during glacial periods and historically due to human persecution. Differently from other European wolf populations, a single mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region haplotype (W14) has been so far described in the Italian wolves, although no intensive genetic sampling has ever been conducted in historical source populations from central and southern Italy. Using non-invasive genetic techniques, we report the occurrence of an unexpected mtDNA haplotype (W16) in the wolf population of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park (PNALM), central Italy. This haplotype, detected in three out of 90 faecal samples from the PNALM, was previously reported in wolves from the North Carpathians, Slovakia and the Balkans only. Microsatellite analysis and molecular sex determination confirmed that the W16 samples belonged to three distinct wolves. Although alternative explanations can be formulated for the origin of this mtDNA haplotype in the otherwise monomorphic Italian wolf population, assignment procedures indicated the likely admixed ancestry of one W16 sample with East European wolves. Anthropogenic introgression with dogs has been detected in the Italian wolf population using nuclear DNA microsatellites, but no population-wide genetic survey had previously reported a mtDNA control region variant in Italian wolves. Our findings strongly suggest that, in addition to wolf×dog hybridization, captive-released wolves or wolf×dog hybrids may successfully interbreed with wolves in the wild, and that human-mediated introgression may occur even in well established protected areas.

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