Conservation Genetics

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 879–892 | Cite as

Northwest passages: conservation genetics of Arctic Island wolves

  • Lindsey E. CarmichaelEmail author
  • Julia Krizan
  • John A. Nagy
  • Mathieu Dumond
  • Deborah Johnson
  • Alasdair Veitch
  • Curtis Strobeck
Research Article


Wolves in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago face several challenges to persistence: a harsh habitat, an unstable prey base, and potentially significant anthropogenic influences. These external factors, if combined with genetic constraints common to island populations, could be particularly difficult to withstand. To determine the genetic status of Arctic Island wolves, we used 14 microsatellite loci to estimate population variation and the extent of inter-island and island-mainland gene flow. All island populations were significantly less variable than mainland wolves; although inbreeding is currently insignificant, the two least variable populations, Banks and the High Arctic (Ellesmere and Devon Islands), showed genetic signatures of recent population declines. Recovery after a bottleneck appears to result, in large part, via recolonization from other islands. These extinction-recolonization dynamics, and the degree of similarity among island wolves revealed by Bayesian clustering, suggest that Arctic Island wolves function as a metapopulation. Persistence of the metapopulation may be supported by periodic migration from mainland populations, occurring primarily through two corridors: Baffin Island in the Eastern Arctic, and Victoria Island in the Western Arctic. This gene flow could be compromised or eliminated by loss—due to climatic warming or increased human activity—of sea ice in the Northwest Passage.


Canis lupus Metapopulation Gene flow Bottleneck Refugium 



Thanks to all those who contributed samples or facilitated their collection: Alaska Raw Fur; D. Bewick and North American Fur Auctions; G. Jarrell at the University of Alaska Museum; P. Merchant; P. Clarkson; R. Otto; G. Bihun; D. Berezanski; R. Brenneman; and the numerous Hunters and Trapper’s Associations and wildlife officers across Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Thanks to G. A. Wilson for updates to his program bayesass, assistance with interpretation of results, and helpful comments on the manuscript. We also appreciate the comments of S. Moore, R. K. Wayne, D. Coltman, D. Hik, and two anonymous referees on earlier drafts of the paper. Financial support was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Alberta Ingenuity Fund, the Government of Nunavut, and the Northern Scientific Training Program.

Supplementary material

10592_2007_9413_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (108 kb)
(PDF 109 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsey E. Carmichael
    • 1
    Email author
  • Julia Krizan
    • 2
  • John A. Nagy
    • 3
  • Mathieu Dumond
    • 4
  • Deborah Johnson
    • 3
  • Alasdair Veitch
    • 3
  • Curtis Strobeck
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.IMG-Golder CorporationInuvikCanada
  3. 3.Department of Environment and Natural ResourcesGovernment of the Northwest TerritoriesYellowknifeCanada
  4. 4.Department of EnvironmentGovernment of NunavutKugluktukCanada

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