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Keywords:

  • Canis lupus;
  • DNA;
  • endemic;
  • microsatellites;
  • Pacific Northwest;
  • southeast Alaska

Abstract

Relatively little genetic variation has been uncovered in surveys across North American wolf populations. Pacific Northwest coastal wolves, in particular, have never been analysed. With an emphasis on coastal Alaska wolf populations, variation at 11 microsatellite loci was assessed. Coastal wolf populations were distinctive from continental wolves and high levels of diversity were found within this isolated and relatively small geographical region. Significant genetic structure within southeast Alaska relative to other populations in the Pacific Northwest, and lack of significant correlation between genetic and geographical distances suggest that differentiation of southeast Alaska wolves may be caused by barriers to gene flow, rather than isolation by distance. Morphological research also suggests that coastal wolves differ from continental populations. A series of studies of other mammals in the region also has uncovered distinctive evolutionary histories and high levels of endemism along the Pacific coast. Divergence of these coastal wolves is consistent with the unique phylogeographical history of the biota of this region and re-emphasizes the need for continued exploration of this biota to lay a framework for thoughtful management of southeast Alaska.