Population Genomic Analysis of North American Eastern Wolves (Canis lycaon) Supports Their Conservation Priority Status
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
Biology Department, Trent University, Peterborough, ON K9L 1Z8, Canada
Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Theodosius Dobzhansky Center for Genome Bioinformatics, Saint Petersburg State University, 199034 Saint Petersburg, Russia
School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI 49931, USA
School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583, USA
Environmental & Life Sciences, Trent University, Peterborough, ON K9L 0G2, Canada
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Trent University, Peterborough, ON K9L 0G2, Canada
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27601, USA
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally.
Genes 2018, 9(12), 606; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes9120606
Received: 15 October 2018 / Revised: 29 November 2018 / Accepted: 30 November 2018 / Published: 4 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conservation Genetics and Genomics)
The threatened eastern wolf is found predominantly in protected areas of central Ontario and has an evolutionary history obscured by interbreeding with coyotes and gray wolves, which challenges its conservation status and subsequent management. Here, we used a population genomics approach to uncover spatial patterns of variation in 281 canids in central Ontario and the Great Lakes region. This represents the first genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) dataset with substantial sample sizes of representative populations. Although they comprise their own genetic cluster, we found evidence of eastern wolf dispersal outside of the boundaries of protected areas, in that the frequency of eastern wolf genetic variation decreases with increasing distance from provincial parks. We detected eastern wolf alleles in admixed coyotes along the northeastern regions of Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. Our analyses confirm the unique genomic composition of eastern wolves, which are mostly restricted to small fragmented patches of protected habitat in central Ontario. We hope this work will encourage an innovative discussion regarding a plan for managed introgression, which could conserve eastern wolf genetic material in any genome regardless of their potential mosaic ancestry composition and the habitats that promote them.