Population genomics of the inbred Scandinavian wolf


Hans Ellegren, E-mail: Hans.Ellegren@ebc.uu.se


The Scandinavian wolf population represents one of the genetically most well-characterized examples of a severely bottlenecked natural population (with only two founders), and of how the addition of new genetic material (one immigrant) can at least temporarily provide a ‘genetic rescue’. However, inbreeding depression has been observed in this population and in the absence of additional immigrants, its long-term viability is questioned. To study the effects of inbreeding and selection on genomic diversity, we performed a genomic scan with approximately 250 microsatellite markers distributed across all autosomes and the X chromosome. We found linkage disequilibrium (LD) that extended up to distances of 50 Mb, exceeding that of most outbreeding species studied thus far. LD was particularly pronounced on the X chromosome. Overall levels of observed genomic heterozygosity did not deviate significantly from simulations based on known population history, giving no support for a general selection for heterozygotes. However, we found evidence supporting balancing selection at a number of loci and also evidence suggesting directional selection at other loci. For markers on chromosome 23, the signal of selection was particularly strong, indicating that purifying selection against deleterious alleles may have occurred even in this very small population. These data suggest that population genomics allows the exploration of the effects of neutral and non-neutral evolution on a finer scale than what has previously been possible.