Climate and habitat barriers to dispersal in the highly mobile grey wolf


Eli Geffen, Institute for Nature Conservation Research, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978 Israel. Fax: 972 3 6407304; E-mail:


We reanalysed published data to evaluate whether climate and habitat are barriers to dispersal in one of the most mobile and widely distributed mammals, the grey wolf (Canis lupus). Distance-based redundancy analysis (dbRDA) was used to examine the amount of variation in genetic distances that could be explained by an array of environmental factors, including geographical distance. Patterns in genetic variation were also examined using MDS plots among populations and relationships between genetic structure and individual environmental variables were further explored using the BIOENV procedure. We found that, contrary to a previous report, a pattern of isolation with distance is evident on a continental scale in the North American wolf population. This pattern is apparently related to climate and habitat. Specifically, vegetation types appear to play a role in the genetic dissimilarities among populations. When we controlled for the effect of spatial variation, climate was still associated with genetic distance. Further, partitioning of geographical distances into latitudinal and longitudinal axes revealed that the east–west gradient had the strongest relationship with genetic distance. We suggest two possible mechanisms by which environmental conditions may influence the dispersal decisions made by wolves.