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IPY: Genomic-Scale SNP Genotyping of the Arctic Wolf: Ecology and Adaptation over Space and Time

The era of the genome has arrived and environmental applications of technology that have emerged from this effort are numerous. New molecular technology resulting from the federally funded dog genome project will be applied to questions about genetic diversity and adaptation of gray wolves, a close relative of the dog. The utility of past genetic studies of wolves has been limited to only about ten molecular markers and DNA sequence data from but one gene. The new 127,000 marker dog genotyping chip can be used on wolves, providing far more information on genetic diversity and migration patterns than previous studies. Critically, some of these markers are located near genes that affect adaptation and thus may permit the discovery of genes that influence function and the response of wolves to environmental change. Genetic variation in gray wolves will be characterized from six genetically defined populations across the Arctic to assess genetic diversity and how it corresponds to environmental and phenotypic variation. Further, how these genes have changed in the past as a result of climate fluctuations will be studied by genetic analysis of ancient wolf remains. Previous research on such ancient specimens has revealed dramatic population turnover and the extinction of a unique form of North American wolf. This study will be one of the first to apply high-throughput SNP genotyping chips to natural populations and will provide new analytical tools for such analyses. This project should reveal ecologically and genetically important regions of the wolf genome, and yield insights into how environmental change has shaped variation in the genome through time. The unique historical and spatial scale of our analysis will improve our understanding of how climate change can affect genetic variation in general and identify populations under the greatest threat.

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