Ausband, D.E. 2022. Genetic diversity and mate selection in a reintroduced population of gray wolves. Scientific Reports. 12:535. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-04449-4
The genetic composition of an individual can markedly affect its survival, reproduction, and ultimately fitness. As some wildlife populations become smaller, conserving genetic diversity will be a conservation challenge. Many imperiled species are already supported through population augmentation efforts and we often do not know if or how genetic diversity is maintained in translocated species. I wanted to know if genetic diversity remained high in a population of gray wolves > 20 years after reintroduction. Additionally, I wanted to know if a potential mechanism for such diversity was individuals with below average genetic diversity choosing mates with above average diversity. Further, I hypothesized that mated pairs with above average heterozygosity would have increased survival of young. Females with below average heterozygosity did not choose mates with above average heterozygosity and pup survival was not higher for mated pairs with above average heterozygosity. The dominant variables predicting pup survival were harvest rate and years pairs were mated. Ultimately, genetic diversity (i.e., heterozygosity) was 7% higher > 20 years after reintroduction. The mechanism for maintaining such diversity does not appear related to individuals preferentially choosing more genetically diverse mates, however.