BILLINGS, Montana (AP) — After 25 years of inbreeding, Yellowstone National Park’s wolves are becoming more genetically similar, researchers have found.
“They’re still a really healthy population,” said Alexandra DeCandia, who looked into wolf genetics for research she recently published. “It’s not anything we’re worried about.”
In fact, genetic similarity can help Yellowstone’s wolves fight a common enemy — mange, a skin disease caused by parasitic mites.
Little is known about what causes the variation in how animals are affected by mange, but a team of researchers, including then-Princeton graduate student DeCandia, sought to shed light on this mystery. Their study, published in “Evolutionary Applications,” brings together schools of thought from molecular biology, disease ecology and conservation biology.
“This was a really neat paper,” Dan Stahler, Yellowstone National Park wildlife biologist who collaborated on the research , told The Billings Gazette. “It’s one of the more elegant studies we’ve done.”
Using 25 years of wolf pedigrees that the park’s researchers have gathered, the research explored the link between genetic information and disease dynamics, Stahler said. Mange was an easier disease for the study to target because the outbreaks are readily apparent through observation — wolves lose hair from scratching when infected — unlike other diseases, he added… More about this outdoors article in link below…