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Wolves are suffering less from inbreeding than expected

ficients the new direct m easures of genetic variation delivered some surprising results.

- For each level of inbreeding it appears to be the wolves with the highest amount of genetic variation that establish themselves as breeders, Staffan Bensch concludes. Whether this is because the genetically diverse wolves are more healthy and stronger and thus more likely to become reproductively active, or if they are more preferred as mates by the opposite sex, we do not know.

- Even if selection is favouring the wolves that are genetically diverse, genetic variation will inevitably be lost over time in such a small population as this one. But it will take much longer than previously thought. This is an important observation since if novel genes are added by introducing a new wolf from a nearby population, the positive effects will be maintained longer than previously estimated.

- We think our results are relevant also for other threatened populations of carnivores. Such spe cies require large areas for their territories and most natural reserves are of a size in which only a few territories can be accommodated. Without immigration inbreeding will increase. If the pattern seen in the Scandinavian wolf population holds to be general, active introductions is only required to be done at rather long intervals in order to maintain the genetic variation of populations.


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Source:Public Library of Science


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