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Phylogeographic history of grey wolves in Europe

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Author(s): Pilot Małgorzata | Branicki Wojciech | Jędrzejewski Włodzimierz | Goszczyński Jacek | Jędrzejewska Bogumiła | Dykyy Ihor | Shkvyrya Maryna | Tsingarska Elena

Journal: BMC Evolutionary Biology
ISSN 1471-2148

Volume: 10;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 104;
Date: 2010;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background While it is generally accepted that patterns of intra-specific genetic differentiation are substantially affected by glacial history, population genetic processes occurring during Pleistocene glaciations are still poorly understood. In this study, we address the question of the genetic consequences of Pleistocene glaciations for European grey wolves. Combining our data with data from published studies, we analysed phylogenetic relationships and geographic distribution of mitochondrial DNA haplotypes for 947 contemporary European wolves. We also compared the contemporary wolf sequences with published sequences of 24 ancient European wolves. Results We found that haplotypes representing two haplogroups, 1 and 2, overlap geographically, but substantially differ in frequency between populations from south-western and eastern Europe. A comparison between haplotypes from Europe and other continents showed that both haplogroups are spread throughout Eurasia, while only haplogroup 1 occurs in contemporary North American wolves. All ancient wolf samples from western Europe that dated from between 44,000 and 1,200 years B.P. belonged to haplogroup 2, suggesting the long-term predominance of this haplogroup in this region. Moreover, a comparison of current and past frequencies and distributions of the two haplogroups in Europe suggested that haplogroup 2 became outnumbered by haplogroup 1 during the last several thousand years. Conclusions Parallel haplogroup replacement, with haplogroup 2 being totally replaced by haplogroup 1, has been reported for North American grey wolves. Taking into account the similarity of diets reported for the late Pleistocene wolves from Europe and North America, the correspondence between these haplogroup frequency changes may suggest that they were associated with ecological changes occurring after the Last Glacial Maximum.
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