Conservation Genetics

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 701–712 | Cite as

Signatures of demographic bottlenecks in European wolf populations

  • Natalia Sastre
  • Carles Vilà
  • María Salinas
  • Vladimir V. Bologov
  • Vicente Urios
  • Armand Sánchez
  • Olga Francino
  • Oscar Ramírez
Research Article


Monitoring the loss of genetic diversity in wild populations after a bottleneck event is a priority in conservation and management plans. Here, we used diverse molecular markers to search for signatures of demographic bottlenecks in two wolf populations; an isolated population from the Iberian Peninsula and a non-isolated population from European Russia. Autosomal, mtDNA and Y-chromosomal diversity and the effective population size (Ne) were significantly lower in the Iberian population. Neutrality tests using mtDNA sequences, such as R2, Fu and Li’s F*, Tajima’s D and Fu’s Fs, were positively significant in the Iberian population, suggesting a population decline, but were not significant for the Russian population, likely due to its larger effective population size. However, three tests using autosomal data confirmed the occurrence of the genetic bottleneck in both populations. The M-ratio test was the only one providing significant results for both populations. Given the lack of consistency among the different tests, we recommend using multiple approaches to investigate possible past bottlenecks. The small effective population size (about 50) in the Iberian Peninsula compared to the presumed extant population size could indicate that the bottleneck was more powerful than initially suspected or an overestimation of the current population. The risks associated with small effective population sizes suggest that the genetic change in this population should be closely monitored in the future. On the other hand, the relatively small effective population size for Russian wolves (a few hundred individuals) could indicate some fragmentation, contrary to what is commonly assumed.


Canis lupus mtDNA Neutrality Y-chromosome Autosomal microsatellites Effective population size European wolf 



Samples were moved from the Russian Federation to Spain according to CITES and VETER requirements. Animals were not killed for the purpose of this manuscript. We are grateful to the personnel from the Central Forest National Reserve (Zapovednik, Russia), especially to Pavel Koravlov, for supplying wolf tooth samples. We thank all the personnel from the “Consejería de Medio Ambiente, Junta de Castilla y León”, especially to Agustín Noriega, for supplying wolf tissue samples. Thanks are due also to Sebastian Ramos-Onsins and Joaquim Casellas for valuable comments on the analyses, to Miki Monguilod for IT support, to Gary Walker for linguistic revision and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. Carles Vilà work was supported by the “Programa para la Captación del Conocimiento para Andalucía” (Andalusian Government, Spain). Financial support was provided by the “Servei Veterinari de Genètica Molecular” (SVGM).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Natalia Sastre
    • 1
  • Carles Vilà
    • 2
  • María Salinas
    • 1
  • Vladimir V. Bologov
    • 3
  • Vicente Urios
    • 4
  • Armand Sánchez
    • 1
  • Olga Francino
    • 1
  • Oscar Ramírez
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Servei Veterinari de Genètica Molecular. Departament de Ciència Animal i dels Aliments, Facultat de VeterinàriaUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  2. 2.Estación Biológica de Doñana-CSIC, Avd Américo Vespucio s/nSevillaSpain
  3. 3.Central Forest State Natural Biosphere Reserve, P/o Zapovednik, Nelidovskij rajonTverskaja OblastRussia
  4. 4.Centro Iberoamericano de la Biodiversidad (CIBIO)Universidad de AlicanteAlicanteSpain
  5. 5.Institut de Biologia Evolutiva, UPF-CSIC, Parc de Recerca Biomedica de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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