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Occurrence of black wolves in the Northern Apennines, Italy

Polish Academy of Sciences, Mammal Research Institute
Publication Date
  • Bio/05 Zoologia


The occurrence of black-coated individuals in wolf Canis lupus Linnaeus, 1758 populations is not surprising itself, but their presence in populations recovering from a severe numerical decline has been considered a possible sign of crossbreeding with the domestic dog. In the northern Apennines (Italy), black wolves occur at a non-negligible frequency. In a 3300 km2 area, 22% of wolves observed and 23% of all dead wolves found were represented by animals with a completely black coat. One ‘black’ wolf belonging to the studied population was analysed by a set of microsatellite loci, and no trace of hybridization was found in its ancestry. This result induced us to consider the occurrence of a black phenotype in this area possibly derived from a natural combination of wolf alleles in coat colour determining genes, and not necessarily as the result of crossbreeding with the domestic form.

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