Genomic signatures of extensive inbreeding in Isle Royale wolves, a population on the threshold of extinction

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Science Advances  29 May 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 5, eaau0757
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau0757

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  • RE: Robinson et al
    • Matthew Cronin, Scientist and Manager, Northwest Biology Company LLC
    • Other Contributors:
      • David Mech, Research Biologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

    eLetter to the Editor: A comment on Robinson et al. 2019. Genomic signatures of extensive inbreeding in Isle Royale wolves, a population on the threshold of extinction.

    Robinson et al. (1) present genetic and anatomical data that strongly support the hypothesis that inbreeding depression due to homozygosity of deleterious recessive alleles contributed to a severe decline of the wolf (Canis lupus) population on Isle Royale, Michigan.

    In their discussion Robinson et al. cited our 2010 paper (2) and stated:
    “The persistence of wolves on Isle Royale was once used to support the claim that a very small population in isolation may persist, and even thrive, without succumbing to genetic deterioration (48, Mech and Cronin 2010). During the past few decades, however, Isle Royale wolves have experienced a precipitous decline following generations of inbreeding and physical degeneration.”

    However, Mech and Cronin (2) did not state that a small population in isolation could persist "without succumbing to genetic deterioration," and they even cited the findings of Raikkonen et al. (3) that the Isle Royale population had genetically deteriorated. When the Mech and Cronin (2) paper was written, the Isle Royale population had not yet severely declined. They acknowledged that it was inbred with genetic defects, but pointed out that it had persisted for 60 years. Mech and Cronin’s main point was that genetic deterioration and extinction is not the i...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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