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Wolf eradication in the US has had a far more devastating impact on the genetic diversity of remaining populations than previously thought, a new study reveals.
Although wolves were systematically eradicated across North America over the last couple of centuries, it had been thought that the human impact on the Canadian wolf population - which is currently a relatively healthy 70,000 - was minor.
Conservationists therefore assumed that the Canadian population had the same level of genetic diversity that had existed in the 19th century - prior to the mass slaughter - and that small-scale re-introductions of these wolves into the US would lead to diversity on a par with this earlier period.
But these assumptions were wrong, according to researchers from the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and the University of California Los Angeles, US, who looked at the genetic diversity of the original wolf populations using DNA analysis. They used bone samples taken from grey wolves dating from 1856 - held in the National Museum for Natural History in Washington DC - and compared this genetic diversity with that of modern wolves.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We found a 43% drop in genetic variability in the modern wolves,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Carles Vila, one of the team. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is impossible for the wolf populations to recover this important diversity, which enables them to adapt to different environmental challenges."
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This was an interesting article...but I cringe when I read words like "impossible" in conjunction with nature.
I've read a bit about cross-breeding dogs and wolves here in the US to increase the wolf population here. It seems natural to think that this kind of cross-breeding would reduce certain abilities, but might increase others.
Thanks for posting this