Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Arizona
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Arizona Project

The Effects of Extirpation and Reintroduction on the Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) through Genome-Wide Association

December 2009 - December 2017


Participating Agencies

  • Arizona Game & Fish Dept.

Goal: The first objective is to assess the distribution of genetic variability across ~170,000 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers and identify regions experiencing positive or purifying selection in the Mexican wolf prior to their extirpation from the wild. Secondly, the same markers will be analyzed from captive and wild individuals to observe how the distribution of variability and selected regions have changed as a result of captive propagation and reintroduction into the wild. The third objective is to use these markers to reveal the genes, or genomic regions showing strong association with inbreeding depression in captive populations. Last, in combination with the available microsatellite data, we will improve upon the existing captive management and reintroduction plans. Because the domestic dog and the wolf are closely related, the available genome sequence of the domestic dog can be a valuable tool for studies of the Mexican wolf (“genome-enabling”). The genome- enabled Mexican wolf promotes one of the first opportunities in any species to investigate the consequences of extirpation, captive propagation, and reintroduction on a genomic scale. Our study will expose the consequences of these events on the genome of the Mexican wolf. The study has the potential to characterize the genetic loci responsible for lost adaptive and accrued detrimental variation. The results will aid in optimizing the management strategies of captive and wild populations of Mexican wolves to protect against concerns like inbreeding depression, and will provide a foundation for the design of recovery plans in other endangered taxa. The improvement will best simulate the Mexican wolf population prior to their extirpation, while attempting to minimize the effects of inbreeding depression.