Article: article from journal or magazin.
Howling from the past: historical phylogeography and diversity losses in European grey wolves.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Biological sciences
Genetic bottlenecks resulting from human-induced population declines make alarming symbols for the irreversible loss of our natural legacy worldwide. The grey wolf ( <i>Canis lupus</i> ) is an iconic example of extreme declines driven by anthropogenic factors. Here, we assessed the genetic signatures of 150 years of wolf persecution throughout the Western Palaearctic by high-throughput mitochondrial DNA sequencing of historical specimens in an unprecedented spatio-temporal framework. Despite Late Pleistocene bottlenecks, we show that historical genetic variation had remained high throughout Europe until the last several hundred years. In Western Europe, where wolves nearly got fully exterminated, diversity dramatically collapsed at the turn of the twentieth century and recolonization from few homogeneous relict populations induced drastic shifts of genetic composition. By contrast, little genetic displacement and steady levels of diversity were maintained in Eastern European regions, where human persecution had lesser effects on wolf demography. By comparing prehistoric, historic and modern patterns of genetic diversity, our study hence traces the timeframe and the active human role in the decline of the grey wolf, an emblematic yet controversial animal which symbolizes the complex relationship between human societies and nature conservation.
General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Immunology and Microbiology, General Agricultural and Biological Sciences, General Environmental Science, General Medicine, Canis lupus, conservation, genetic diversity, historical DNA, human-driven declines, museum specimens
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