Nav: Home

Surprisingly, inbred isle royale wolves dwindle because of fewer harmful genes

May 29, 2019

The tiny, isolated gray wolf population on Isle Royale has withered to near-extinction, but not because each animal carries a large number of harmful genes, according to a new genetic analysis. Instead, each one has been more likely to inherit the same harmful recessive alleles from both parents. This pattern enables expression of related genes as physical deformities, including the population's characteristically crooked spines. The findings contradict many previous studies, which suggest the crux of the genetic problem for historically small or sharply reduced populations is an increase in the quantity of harmful alleles. While the Isle Royale wolf population once consisted of 50 wolves, it has dwindled to just two - a father and daughter that are also half siblings. The collapse of the Isle Royale wolf population occurred despite a reported genetic "rescue" in 1997 by a single migrant from the mainland. To better characterize the genome-wide effects of intense inbreeding and isolation on this population, and their role in its decline, Jacqueline A. Robinson and colleagues analyzed mutations within the protein-coding regions of DNA from Isle Royale wolves, compared with genetic data from wolves in nearby mainland Minnesota. The former didn't have a greater number of deleterious genes than the Minnesota group, but the proportion of Isle Royale wolves with paired harmful recessive alleles in their genome was 38.4% higher. When the researchers compared Isle Royale genetic data with that from other wolf genomes from around the world, they found that individuals from historically large populations more frequently contained two different alleles at a gene location, while those from historically small populations more frequently contained short sequences of identical allele pairings, as with the Isle Royale wolves. These findings, supported by further simulations, contain broader implications for conservation efforts to manage fragmented populations at risk for decline due to inbreeding. Individuals brought in from historically small populations, rather than those from larger, more diverse gene pools, may actually prove more beneficial because they carry fewer potentially harmful alleles.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Wolves Articles:

'Wolves in sheep's clothing' -- the superbugs outsmarting laboratory tests
Hospital screening tests are failing to identify the true extent of microbial resistance, according to new research.
What wolves' teeth reveal about their lives
UCLA biologist discovers what wolves' broken teeth reveal about their lives.
Fearing cougars more than wolves, Yellowstone elk manage threats from both predators
Wolves are charismatic, conspicuous, and easy to single out as the top predator affecting populations of elk, deer, and other prey animals.
Genomics of Isle Royale wolves reveal impacts of inbreeding
A new paper explores the genetic signatures of a pair of wolves isolated on Isle Royale, a remote national park in Lake Superior.
Surprisingly, inbred isle royale wolves dwindle because of fewer harmful genes
The tiny, isolated gray wolf population on Isle Royale has withered to near-extinction, but not because each animal carries a large number of harmful genes, according to a new genetic analysis.
Wolf-dog 'swarms' threaten Europe's wolves
'Swarms' of wolf-dog crossbreeds could drive Europe's wolves out of existence, according to the lead author of new research.
The return of the wolves
Researchers examine global strategies for dealing with predators.
Wolves more prosocial than pack dogs in touchscreen experiment
In a touchscreen-based task that allowed individual animals to provide food to others, wolves behaved more prosocially toward their fellow pack members than did pack dogs.
Isle Royale winter study: 13 new wolves, 20 radio-collared moose
Michigan Technological University's 2019 Isle Royale Winter Study focuses on the implications of newly introduced wolves and the movements of newly collared moose.
Origin of Scandinavian wolves clarified
There are no signs that hybrids of dog and wolf have contributed to the Scandinavian wolf population -- a matter that has been discussed, especially in Norway.
More Wolves News and Wolves Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at