Sleeping with the Enemy: Wolves and Livestock Guardian Dogs

Can’t trust anyone….

Gene Flow between Wolf and Shepherd Dog Populations in Georgia (Caucasus)

We studied the distribution of the mitochondrial DNA haplotypes and microsatellite genotypes at 8 loci in 102 gray wolves, 57 livestock guarding dogs, and 9 mongrel dogs from Georgia (Caucasus). Most of the studied dogs had mitochondrial haplotypes clustered with presumably East Asian dog lineages, and most of the studied wolves had the haplotypes clustered with European wolves, but 20% of wolves and 37% of dogs shared the same mitochondrial haplotypes. Bayesian inference with STRUCTURE software suggested that more than 13% of the studied wolves had detectable dog ancestry and more than 10% of the dogs had detectable wolf ancestry. About 2–3% of the sampled wolves and dogs were identified, with a high probability, as first-generation hybrids. These results were supported by the relatedness analysis, which showed that 10% of wolves and 20% of dogs had closest relatives from an opposite group. The results of the study suggest that wolf–dog hybridization is a common event in the areas where large livestock guarding dogs are held in a traditional way, and that gene flow between dogs and gray wolves was an important force influencing gene pool of dogs for millennia since early domestication events. This process may have been terminated 1) in areas outside the natural range of gray wolves and 2) since very recent time, when humans started to more tightly control contacts of purebred dogs.

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