Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wolves at the door: Study finds recent wolf-dog hybridization in Caucasus region

Date:
April 14, 2014
Source:
American Genetic Association
Summary:
Hybridization of wolves with shepherd dogs in the Caucasus region might be more common, and more recent, than previously thought, according to new research. Scientists found recent hybrid ancestry in about ten percent of the dogs and wolves sampled. About two to three percent of the sampled wolves and dogs were identified as first-generation hybrids.

Upper panel: This is a livestock-guarding shepherd dog; middle panel: This is a livestock-guarding dog with inferred wolf ancestry (first-generation hybrid); lower panel: This is a wolf (all from Kazbegi, Georgia).
Credit: Photo courtesy of David Tarkhnishvili and Natia Kopaliani

Dog owners in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia might want to consider penning up their dogs more often: hybridization of wolves with shepherd dogs might be more common, and more recent, than previously thought, according to a recently published study in the Journal of Heredity.

Dr. Natia Kopaliani, Dr. David Tarkhnishvili, and colleagues from the Institute of Ecology at Ilia State University in Georgia and from the Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia used a range of genetic techniques to extract and examine DNA taken from wolf and dog fur samples as well as wolf scat and blood samples. They found recent hybrid ancestry in about ten percent of the dogs and wolves sampled. About two to three percent of the sampled wolves and dogs were identified as first-generation hybrids. This included hybridization between wolves and the shepherd dogs used to guard sheep from wolf attacks.

The study was undertaken as part of Dr. Kopaliani's work exploring human-wolf conflict in Georgia. "Since the 2000s, the frequency of wolf depredation on cattle has increased in Georgia, and there were several reports of attacks on humans. Wolves were sighted even in densely populated areas," she explained.

"Reports suggested that, unlike wild wolves, wolf-dog hybrids might lack fear of humans, so we wanted to examine the ancestry of wolves near human settlements to determine if they could be of hybrid origin with free-ranging dogs such as shepherds," she added.

The research team examined maternally-inherited DNA (mitochondrial DNA) and microsatellite markers to study hybridization rates. Microsatellite markers mutate easily, as they do not have any discernible purpose in the genome, and are highly variable even within a single population. For these reasons, they are often used to study hybridization.

"We expected to identify some individuals with hybrid ancestry, but it was quite surprising that recent hybrid ancestry was found in every tenth wolf and every tenth shepherd dog," said study co-author Tarkhnishvili.

"Two dogs out of the 60 or so we studied were inferred to be first generation hybrids," he added.

The study also found that about a third of the dogs sampled shared relatively recent maternal ancestry with local wolves, not with wolves domesticated in the Far East, where most experts believe dogs were first domesticated.

The research team used several alternate methods to confirm their results, and came to the same conclusions with each approach.

The shepherd dogs studied are a local breed used to guard livestock. "Ironically, their sole function is to protect sheep from wolves or thieves," Kopaliani explained. "The shepherd dogs are free-ranging, largely outside the tight control of their human masters. They guard the herds from wolves, which are common in the areas where they are used, but it appears that they are also consorting with the enemy."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Genetic Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. N. Kopaliani, M. Shakarashvili, Z. Gurielidze, T. Qurkhuli, D. Tarkhnishvili. Gene Flow between Wolf and Shepherd Dog Populations in Georgia (Caucasus). Journal of Heredity, 2014; 105 (3): 345 DOI: 10.1093/jhered/esu014

Cite This Page:

American Genetic Association. "Wolves at the door: Study finds recent wolf-dog hybridization in Caucasus region." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140414092144.htm>.
American Genetic Association. (2014, April 14). Wolves at the door: Study finds recent wolf-dog hybridization in Caucasus region. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140414092144.htm
American Genetic Association. "Wolves at the door: Study finds recent wolf-dog hybridization in Caucasus region." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140414092144.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins