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Scandura M.,University of Sassari | Iacolina L.,University of Sassari | Capitani C.,European Commission - Joint Research Center Ispra | Gazzola A.,University of Sassari | And 2 more authors.
European Journal of Wildlife Research | Year: 2011

We investigated local gene flow in a high-density wolf (Canis lupus) population of the Italian Apennines, where no effective barrier to wolf dispersal was present. From 1998 to 2004 we examined wolf carcasses and non-invasively collected samples, focusing on three mountain districts, separated by two valleys, where wolf packs showed high spatial stability. Using nine autosomal microsatellites we successfully genotyped 177 samples, achieving the identification of 74 wolves. Genetic relatedness steeply decreased with increasing distance between sampling areas, thus suggesting that short-distance interpack migration is infrequent in this population. In addition, no individual from a central pack under intensive monitoring was sampled in the range of the surrounding packs over a 4-year period. The limited short-distance gene flow resulted in a cryptic genetic structure, which was revealed by Bayesian analysis. A different genetic cluster was found in each of the three mountain areas, and a small proportion of first-generation immigrants was detected. Overall, the present study suggests that local genetic differentiation in Italian wolves might arise from high spatial stability of packs and can be favoured by a combination of long-range dispersal, the attitude to mate between unrelated individuals and a high young mortality rate. © 2011 Springer-Verlag. Source

Iacolina L.,University of Sassari | Scandura M.,University of Sassari | Gazzola A.,University of Sassari | Cappai N.,University of Sassari | And 4 more authors.
Mammalian Biology | Year: 2010

One major concern in wolf (Canis lupus) conservation is the risk of genetic contamination due to crossbreeding with domestic dogs. Although genetic monitoring of wolf populations has become widely used, the behavioural mechanisms involved in wolf-dog hybridization and the detrimental effects of genetic introgression are poorly known. In this study we analysed Y-chromosome microsatellite variation in the recovering Italian wolf population and detected strikingly different allele frequencies between wolves and dogs. Four Y haplotypes were found in 74 analysed male wolves, and all of them were present in a focus wolf population in the Apennines. On the other hand, only 1 haplotype was found in the recolonizing wolf population from the Western Alps. The most common haplotype in a sample of domestic dogs, was also found in 5 wolves, 2 of which revealing a signature of recent hybridization. Moreover, another suspect hybrid carried a private haplotype of possible canine origin. These results give support to the idea that female wolves can breed with male stray dogs in the wild. The Y-chromosome variation in Italian wolves contrasts with the previously observed lack of mitochondrial variation. Further investigations are needed to clarify at what extent historical or recent wolf-dog hybridization events may have contributed to the observed haplotype diversity. In conclusion, the two molecular markers employed in this study represent effective means to trace directional genetic introgression into the wolves male lineage and have the noteworthy advantage of being suitable for analyses on low-quality DNA samples. © 2010 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde. Source

Passilongo D.,University of Sassari | Mattioli L.,Servizio Piano Faunistico | Bassi E.,University of Sassari | Szabo L.,Szent Istvan University | Apollonio M.,University of Sassari
Frontiers in Zoology | Year: 2015

Introduction: Monitoring large carnivores is a central issue in conservation biology. The wolf (Canis lupus) is the most studied large carnivore in the world. After a massive decline and several local extinctions, mostly due to direct persecutions, wolves are now recolonizing many areas of their historical natural range. One of the main monitoring techniques is the howling survey, which is based on the wolves' tendency to use vocalisations to mark territory ownership in response to howls of unknown individuals. In most cases wolf howling sessions are useful for the localisation of the pack, but they provide only an aural estimation of the chorus size. We tested and present a new bioacoustic approach to estimate chorus size by recording wolves' replies and visualising choruses through spectrograms and spectral envelopes. To test the methodology, we compared: a) the values detected by visual inspections with the true chorus size to test for accuracy; b) the bioacoustic estimations of a sample of free-ranging wolves' replies developed by different operators to test for precision of the method; c) the aural field estimation of chorus size of a sample of free-ranging wolves' replies with the sonogram analysis of the same recordings to test for difference between methods. Results: Visual inspection of the chorus by spectrogram and spectrum proved to be useful in determining the number of concurrent voices in a wolf chorus. Estimations of chorus size were highly correlated with the number of wolves counted in a pack, and 92% of 29 known chorus sizes were recognized by means of bioacoustic analysis. On the basis of spectrographic evidence, it was also possible to identify up to seven concurrent vocalisations in a chorus of nine wolves. Spectral analysis of 37 free ranging wolves' replies showed a high correlation between the chorus size estimations of the different operators (92.8%), but a low correlation with the aural estimation (59.2%). Conclusions: Wolf howling monitoring technique could be improved by recording wolves' replies and by using bioacoustic tools such as spectrograms and spectral envelopes to determine the size of the wolf chorus. Compared with other monitoring techniques (i.e., genetic analysis), bioacoustic analysis requires widely available informatic tools (i.e., sound recording set of devices and sound analysis software) and a low budget. Information obtained by means of chorus analysis can also be combined with that provided by other techniques. Moreover, howls can be recorded and stored in audio file format with a good resolution (i.e. in "Wave" format), thus representing a useful tool for future listening and investigations, which can be countlessly employed without risks of time deterioration. © 2015 Passilongo et al. Source

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