As part of the research on the Yellowstone wolves, VonHoldt conducted a genome scan and studied more than 50,000 genetic markers in order to assess genetic variation across wolf populations in relation to dogs. She and her colleagues examined whether there was any evidence elsewhere in the genome indicating that black wolves recently hybridized with dogs but could not find any.
Black coyotes also have the same coat-color gene as domestic dogs, Anderson, vonHoldt and the co-authors report.
The research was conducted by laboratory and field scientists with diverse backgrounds in conservation biology, ecology and molecular genetics.
The collaboration will help to refine concepts relevant to both genetics and conservation biology with respect to understanding how different traits arise during evolution and how biological diversity can be nurtured and maintained, the scientists said.
"My main interest is to describe the genetics of dog domestication the geographic location of domestication and the genetic changes that led to the distinctive body forms evident in so many breeds," vonHoldt said. "I'm able to use a genome approach and look at many points along the dog genome to find interesting regions and whether these regions contain genes with known functions, and to extrapolate what that means for the domestication process of dogs.
"We're trying to figure out whether the black coat color provides a fitness or behavioral advantage," she added, noting that Yellowstone National Park has a wealth of observational data that "we can integrate with our genetic data."
"We can scan the dog's genome and find associations between a particular marker and a trait like foreshortened limbs or a specific coat color, or even behavioral traits," Wa
|Contact: Stuart Wolpert|
University of California - Los Angeles