Stronen, Astrid Vik2; Navid, Erin L7; Quinn, Michael S8; Paquet, Paul C6; Bryan, Heather M6; Darimont, Christopher T6
1 Section of Biology and Environmental Science, The Faculty of Engineering and Science, Aalborg University, VBN2 Department of Chemistry and Bioscience, The Faculty of Engineering and Science, Aalborg University, VBN3 The Faculty of Engineering and Science (ENG), Aalborg University, VBN4 University of Calgary5 Mount Royal University6 Department of Geography, University of Victoria7 University of Calgary8 Mount Royal University
Background Emerging evidence suggests that ecological heterogeneity across space can influence the genetic structure of populations, including that of long-distance dispersers such as large carnivores. On the central coast of British Columbia, Canada, wolf (Canis lupus L., 1758) dietary niche and parasite prevalence data indicate strong ecological divergence between marine-oriented wolves inhabiting islands and individuals on the coastal mainland that interact primarily with terrestrial prey. Local holders of traditional ecological knowledge, who distinguish between mainland and island wolf forms, also informed our hypothesis that genetic differentiation might occur between wolves from these adjacent environments. Results We used microsatellite genetic markers to examine data obtained from wolf faecal samples. Our results from 116 individuals suggest the presence of a genetic cline between mainland and island wolves. This pattern occurs despite field observations that individuals easily traverse the 30 km wide study area and swim up to 13 km among landmasses in the region. Conclusions Natal habitat-biased dispersal (i.e., the preference for dispersal into familiar ecological environments) might contribute to genetic differentiation. Accordingly, this working hypothesis presents an exciting avenue for future research where marine resources or other components of ecological heterogeneity are present.
B M C Ecology, 2014, Vol 14
Canis lupus; Ecological divergence; Marine resources; Niche; Population genetic structure; Traditional ecological knowledge; Wolf