Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 1273–1281 | Cite as

Genetic and morphometric analysis of sixteenth century Canis skull fragments: implications for historic eastern and gray wolf distribution in North America

  • Linda Y. RutledgeEmail author
  • Kirsten I. Bos
  • Robert J. Pearce
  • Bradley N. White
Research Article


Resolving the taxonomy and historic ranges of species are essential to recovery plans for species at risk and conservation programs that aim to restore extirpated populations. In eastern North America, planning for wolf population restoration is complicated by the disputed historic distributions of two wolf species: the Old World-evolved gray wolf (Canis lupus) and the New World-evolved eastern wolf (C. lycaon). We used genetic and morphometric data from 4- to 500-year-old Canis samples excavated in London, Ontario, Canada to help clarify the historic range of these two wolf species in the eastern temperate forests of North America. We isolated DNA and sequenced the mitochondrial control region and found that none of the samples were of gray wolf origin. Two of the DNA sequences corresponded to those found in present day coyotes (C. latrans), but morphometric comparisons show an eastern wolf, not coyote, origin. The remaining two sequences matched ancient domestic dog haplotypes. These results suggest that the New World-evolved eastern wolf, not the gray wolf, occupied this region prior to the arrival of European settlers, although eastern-gray wolf hybrids cannot be ruled out. Furthermore, our data support the idea of a shared common ancestry between eastern wolves and western coyotes, and that the distribution of gray wolves at this time probably did not include the eastern temperate forests of North America.


Eastern wolf Morphometrics Mitochondrial DNA Phylogenetics Precontact North America Wolf restoration 



Thank you to Lisa Paulaharju at the Ontario Museum of Archaeology for locating catalogued samples, Kim Bennett, Brenna McLeod, Roxanne Gillett, and Kevin Middel for technical assistance, Brent Patterson at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for supplying the skulls and comments on the manuscript, to Christine King at McMaster for providing the sequence data, all the technicians at the NRDPFC, and the members of the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre for helpful comments on the sequence data. This research was funded by a Natural Sciences Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Post-Graduate Doctoral Scholarship, an NSERC operating grant, and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant 410-2004-0579.

Supplementary material

10592_2009_9957_MOESM1_ESM.ppt (689 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 1 Sequence alignment of all four ancient samples (LIVa3, LIVa4, LIVa5, LIVa6), two Canis samples from GENBANK (DQ480511 C. latrans, DQ480508 C. lupus), cloned sequences of LIVa6 from both Trent University (TU) and McMaster University (MU) and their respective consensus sequences. For sample LIVa6, ds refers to the consensus sequence obtained from direct sequencing


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda Y. Rutledge
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kirsten I. Bos
    • 2
  • Robert J. Pearce
    • 3
  • Bradley N. White
    • 1
  1. 1.Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre, DNA BuildingTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  2. 2.McMaster Ancient DNA Centre, Department of Anthropology, Chester New Hall Rm. 411McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  3. 3.Museum of Ontario ArchaeologyLondonCanada

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