Hybridisation between a domesticated species and its wild ancestor is an important conservation problem, especially if it results in the introgression of domestic gene variants into wild species. Nevertheless, the legal status of hybrids remains unregulated, partially because of the limited understanding of the hybridisation process and its consequences. The occurrence of hybridisation between grey wolves and domestic dogs is well documented from different parts of the wolf geographic range, but little is known about the frequency of hybridisation events, their causes and the genetic impact on wolf populations. We analysed 61K SNPs spanning the canid genome in wolves from across Eurasia and North America and compared that data to similar data from dogs to identify signatures of admixture. The haplotype block analysis, which included 38 autosomes and the X chromosome, indicated the presence of individuals of mixed wolf–dog ancestry in most Eurasian wolf populations, but less admixture was present in North American populations. We found evidence for male-biased introgression of dog alleles into wolf populations, but also identified a first-generation hybrid resulting from mating between a female dog and a male wolf. We found small blocks of dog ancestry in the genomes of 62% Eurasian wolves studied and melanistic individuals with no signs of recent admixed ancestry, but with a dog-derived allele at a locus linked to melanism. Consequently, these results suggest that hybridisation has been occurring in different parts of Eurasia on multiple timescales and is not solely a recent phenomenon. Nevertheless, wolf populations have maintained genetic differentiation from dogs, suggesting that hybridisation at a low frequency does not diminish distinctiveness of the wolf gene pool. However, increased hybridisation frequency may be detrimental for wolf populations, stressing the need for genetic monitoring to assess the frequency and distribution of individuals resulting from recent admixture.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- admixed ancestry
- domestic dog
- gene introgression
- grey wolf