Iacolina, Laura and Scandura, Massimo and Gazzola, Andrea and Cappai, Nadia and Capitani, Claudia and Mattioli, Luca and Vercillo, Francesca and Apollonio, Marco (2010) Y-chromosome microsatellite variation in Italian wolves: a contribution to the study of wolf-dog hybridization patterns. Mammalian Biology, Vol. 75 (4), p. 341-347. eISSN 1618-1476. Article.
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One major concern in wolf (Canis lupus) conservation is the risk of genetic contamination due to crossbreeding with domestic dogs. Although genetic monitoring of wolf populations has become widely used, the behavioural mechanisms involved in wolf-dog hybridization and the detrimental effects of genetic introgression are poorly known. In this study we analysed Y-chromosome microsatellite variation in the recovering Italian wolf population and detected strikingly different allele frequencies between wolves and dogs. Four Y haplotypes were found in 74 analysed male wolves, and all of them were present in a focus wolf population in the Apennines. On the other hand, only 1 haplotype was found in the recolonizing wolf population from the Western Alps. The most common haplotype in a sample of domestic dogs, was also found in 5 wolves, 2 of which revealing a signature of recent hybridization. Moreover, another suspect hybrid carried a private haplotype of possible canine origin. These results give support to the idea that female wolves can breed with male stray dogs in the wild. The Y-chromosome variation in Italian wolves contrasts with the previously observed lack of mitochondrial variation. Further investigations are needed to clarify at what extent historical or recent wolf-dog hybridization events may have contributed to the observed haplotype diversity. In conclusion, the two molecular markers employed in this study represent effective means to trace directional genetic introgression into the wolves male lineage and have the noteworthy advantage of being suitable for analyses on low-quality DNA samples.
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