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Genomic approaches reveal an endemic sub-population of gray wolves in Southern China

By Guo-Dong Wang, Ming Zhang, Xuan Wang, Melinda A Yang, Peng Cao, Feng Liu, Heng Lu, Xiaotian Feng, Pontus Skoglund, Lu Wang, Qiaomei Fu, Ya-Ping Zhang

Posted 08 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/512921 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2019.09.008)

Despite being one of the most widely distributed terrestrial mammals, the history of gray wolves (Canis lupus) in China is not well understood as their habitats have been destroyed with growing economic development. Using six specimens from wolf skins in Chinese Natural History museums, we sequenced their genome using a modified ancient DNA procedure. Using whole genome sequence analysis, we showed that gray wolves from Southern China (SC) derive from a single lineage, distinct from gray wolves from the Tibetan Plateau (Canis lupus chanco) and Northern China, suggesting that SC gray wolves may form a distinct sub-population. Of SC gray wolves, one wolf from Zhejiang carries a genetic component from a canid that must have diverged earlier from other wolves than jackals did, perhaps through gene flow from a population related to or further diverged from wolves than the dhole, a species distributed in Southern China and Southeast Asia. This may indicate that interspecific gene flow likely played an important role in shaping the speciation patterns and population structure in the genus Canis. Our study is the first to survey museum genomes of gray wolves from Southern China, revealing the presence of an endemic population with ancient interspecific gene flow from a population related to the dhole, and highlighting how sequencing the paleogenome from museum specimens can help us to study extinct species.

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