Monthly Archives September 2016

A new paper has been published in Biological Reviews:

Wolf population genetics in Europe: a systematic review, meta-analysis and suggestions for conservation and management

Maris Hindrikson, Jaanus Remm, Malgorzata Pilot, Raquel Godinho, Astrid Vik Stronen, Laima Baltrūnaité, Sylwia D. Czarnomska, Jennifer A. Leonard, Ettore Randi, Carsten Nowak, Mikael Åkesson, José Vicente López-Bao, Francisco Álvares, Luis Llaneza, Jorge Echegaray, Carles Vilà, Janis Ozolins, Dainis Rungis, Jouni Aspi, Ladislav Paule, Tomaž Skrbinšek and Urmas Saarma


The grey wolf (Canis lupus) is an iconic large carnivore that has increasingly been recognized as an apex predator with intrinsic value and a keystone species. However, wolves have also long represented a primary source of human–carnivore conflict, which has led to long-term persecution of wolves, resulting in a significant decrease in their numbers, genetic diversity and gene flow between populations. For more effective protection and management of wolf populations in Europe, robust scientific evidence is crucial. This review serves as an analytical summary of the main findings from wolf population genetic studies in Europe, covering major studies from the ‘pre-genomic era’ and the first insights of the ‘genomics era’. We analyse, summarize and discuss findings derived from analyses of three compartments of the mammalian genome with different inheritance modes: maternal (mitochondrial DNA), paternal (Y chromosome) and biparental [autosomal microsatellites and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)]. To describe large-scale trends and patterns of genetic variation in European wolf populations, we conducted a meta-analysis based on the results of previous microsatellite studies and also included new data, covering all 19 European countries for which wolf genetic information is available: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Belarus, Russia, Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Spain and Portugal. We compared different indices of genetic diversity in wolf populations and found a significant spatial trend in heterozygosity across Europe from south-west (lowest genetic diversity) to north-east (highest). The range of spatial autocorrelation calculated on the basis of three characteristics of genetic diversity was 650−850 km, suggesting that the genetic diversity of a given wolf population can be influenced by populations up to 850 km away. As an important outcome of this synthesis, we discuss the most pressing issues threatening wolf populations in Europe, highlight important gaps in current knowledge, suggest solutions to overcome these limitations, and provide recommendations for science-based wolf conservation and management at regional and Europe-wide scales.

We have recently published a paper in G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics:

Diversifying Selection Between Pure-Breed and Free-Breeding Dogs Inferred from Genome-Wide SNP Analysis

Pilot M., Malewski T., Moura A.E., Grzybowski T., Olenski K., Kaminski S., Fadel F.R., Alagaili A., Mohammed O., Bogdanowicz W.

G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics 6 (2016): 2285-2298

Domesticated species are often composed of distinct populations differing in the character and strength of artificial and natural selection pressures, providing a valuable model to study adaptation. In contrast to pure-breed dogs that constitute artificially maintained inbred lines, free-ranging dogs are typically free-breeding, i.e., unrestrained in mate choice. Many traits in free-breeding dogs (FBDs) may be under similar natural and sexual selection conditions to wild canids, while relaxation of sexual selection is expected in pure-breed dogs. We used a Bayesian approach with strict false-positive control criteria to identify FST-outlier SNPs between FBDs and either European or East Asian breeds, based on 167,989 autosomal SNPs. By identifying outlier SNPs located within coding genes, we found four candidate genes under diversifying selection shared by these two comparisons. Three of them are associated with the Hedgehog (HH) signaling pathway regulating vertebrate morphogenesis. A comparison between FBDs and East Asian breeds also revealed diversifying selection on the BBS6 gene, which was earlier shown to cause snout shortening and dental crowding via disrupted HH signaling. Our results suggest that relaxation of natural and sexual selection in pure-breed dogs as opposed to FBDs could have led to mild changes in regulation of the HH signaling pathway. HH inhibits adhesion and the migration of neural crest cells from the neural tube, and minor deficits of these cells during embryonic development have been proposed as the underlying cause of “domestication syndrome.” This suggests that the process of breed formation involved the same genetic and developmental pathways as the process of domestication.

The paper can be downloaded from here: