What the Inbred Scandinavian Wolf Population Tells Us about the Nature of Conservation

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The genetic aspects of population health are critical, but frequently difficult to assess. Of concern has been the genetic constitution of Scandinavian wolves (Canis lupus), which represent an important case in conservation. We examined the incidence of different congenital anomalies for 171 Scandinavian wolves, including the immigrant founder female, born during a 32-year period between 1978 and 2010. The incidence of anomalies rose from 13% to 40% throughout the 32-year study period. Our ability to detect this increase was likely facilitated by having considered multiple kinds of anomaly. Many of the found anomalies are likely associated with inbreeding or some form of genetic deterioration. These observations have implications for understanding the conservation needs of Scandinavian wolves. Moreover, these observations and the history of managing Scandinavian wolves focus attention on a broader question, whether conservation is merely about avoiding extinction of remnant populations, or whether conservation also entails maintaining genetic aspects of population health. © 2013 Räikkönen et al.

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