Publications by authors named "Øystein Flagstad"

18 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Age at first reproduction in wolves: different patterns of density dependence for females and males.

Proc Biol Sci 2021 Apr 7;288(1948):20210207. Epub 2021 Apr 7.

Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 73993 Riddarhyttan, Sweden.

Age at first reproduction constitutes a key life-history trait in animals and is evolutionarily shaped by fitness benefits and costs of delayed versus early reproduction. The understanding of how intrinsic and extrinsic changes affects age at first reproduction is crucial for conservation and management of threatened species because of its demographic effects on population growth and generation time. For a period of 40 years in the Scandinavian wolf () population, including the recolonization phase, we estimated age at first successful reproduction (pup survival to at least three weeks of age) and examined how the variation among individuals was explained by sex, population size (from 1 to 74 packs), primiparous or multiparous origin, reproductive experience of the partner and inbreeding. Median age at first reproduction was 3 years for females ( = 60) and 2 years for males ( = 74), and ranged between 1 and 8-10 years of age ( = 297). Female age at first reproduction decreased with increasing population size, and increased with higher levels of inbreeding. The probability for males to reproduce later first decreased, reaching its minimum when the number of territories approached 40-60, and then increased with increasing population size. Inbreeding for males and reproductive experience of parents and partners for both sexes had overall weak effects on age at first reproduction. These results allow for more accurate parameter estimates when modelling population dynamics for management and conservation of small and vulnerable wolf populations, and show how humans through legal harvest and illegal hunting influence an important life-history trait like age at first reproduction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.0207DOI Listing
April 2021

Fitness and fur colouration: Testing the camouflage and thermoregulation hypotheses in an Arctic mammal.

J Anim Ecol 2021 Mar 3. Epub 2021 Mar 3.

Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Bergen, Norway.

Selection for crypsis has been recognized as an important ecological driver of animal colouration, whereas the relative importance of thermoregulation is more contentious with mixed empirical support. A potential thermal advantage of darker individuals has been observed in a wide range of animal species. Arctic animals that exhibit colour polymorphisms and undergo seasonal colour moults are interesting study subjects for testing the two alternative hypotheses: demographic performance of different colour morphs might be differentially affected by snow cover with a cryptic advantage for lighter morphs, or conversely by winter temperature with a thermal advantage for darker morphs. In this study, we explored whether camouflage and thermoregulation might explain differences in reproduction and survival between the white and blue colour morphs of the Arctic fox Vulpes lagopus under natural conditions. Juvenile and adult survival, breeding propensity and litter size were measured for 798 captive-bred and released or wild-born Arctic foxes monitored during an 11-year period (2007-2017) in two subpopulations in south-central Norway. We investigated the proportion of the two colour morphs and compared their demographic performance in relation to spatial variation in duration of snow cover, onset of snow season and winter temperatures. After population re-establishment, a higher proportion of blue individuals was observed among wild-born Arctic foxes compared to the proportion of blue foxes released from the captive population. Our field study provides the first evidence for an effect of colour morph on the reproductive performance of Arctic foxes under natural conditions, with a higher breeding propensity of the blue morph compared to the white one. Performance of the two colour morphs was not differentially affected by the climatic variables, except for juvenile survival. Blue morph juveniles showed a tendency for higher survival under colder winter temperatures but lower survival under warmer temperatures compared to white morph juveniles. Overall, our findings do not consistently support predictions of the camouflage or the thermoregulation hypotheses. The higher success of blue foxes suggests an advantage of the dark morph not directly related to disruptive selection by crypsis or thermoregulation. Our results rather point to physiological adaptations and behavioural traits not necessarily connected to thermoregulation, such as stress response, immune function, sexual behaviour and aggressiveness. Our findings highlight the need to explore the potential role of genetic linkage or pleiotropy in influencing the fitness of white and blue Arctic foxes as well as other species with colour polymorphisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13457DOI Listing
March 2021

Estimating and forecasting spatial population dynamics of apex predators using transnational genetic monitoring.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 12 16;117(48):30531-30538. Epub 2020 Nov 16.

Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, NO-7485 Trondheim, Norway.

The ongoing recovery of terrestrial large carnivores in North America and Europe is accompanied by intense controversy. On the one hand, reestablishment of large carnivores entails a recovery of their most important ecological role, predation. On the other hand, societies are struggling to relearn how to live with apex predators that kill livestock, compete for game species, and occasionally injure or kill people. Those responsible for managing these species and mitigating conflict often lack fundamental information due to a long-standing challenge in ecology: How do we draw robust population-level inferences for elusive animals spread over immense areas? Here we showcase the application of an effective tool for spatially explicit tracking and forecasting of wildlife population dynamics at scales that are relevant to management and conservation. We analyzed the world's largest dataset on carnivores comprising more than 35,000 noninvasively obtained DNA samples from over 6,000 individual brown bears (), gray wolves (), and wolverines (). Our analyses took into account that not all individuals are detected and, even if detected, their fates are not always known. We show unequivocal quantitative evidence of large carnivore recovery in northern Europe, juxtaposed with the finding that humans are the single-most important factor driving the dynamics of these apex predators. We present maps and forecasts of the spatiotemporal dynamics of large carnivore populations, transcending national boundaries and management regimes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2011383117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7720137PMC
December 2020

Consequences of past climate change and recent human persecution on mitogenomic diversity in the arctic fox.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2019 12 4;374(1788):20190212. Epub 2019 Nov 4.

Department of Bioinformatics and Genetics, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden.

Ancient DNA provides a powerful means to investigate the timing, rate and extent of population declines caused by extrinsic factors, such as past climate change and human activities. One species probably affected by both these factors is the arctic fox, which had a large distribution during the last glaciation that subsequently contracted at the start of the Holocene. More recently, the arctic fox population in Scandinavia went through a demographic bottleneck owing to human persecution. To investigate the consequences of these processes, we generated mitogenome sequences from a temporal dataset comprising Pleistocene, historical and modern arctic fox samples. We found no evidence that Pleistocene populations in mid-latitude Europe or Russia contributed to the present-day gene pool of the Scandinavian population, suggesting that postglacial climate warming led to local population extinctions. Furthermore, during the twentieth-century bottleneck in Scandinavia, at least half of the mitogenome haplotypes were lost, consistent with a 20-fold reduction in female effective population size. In conclusion, these results suggest that the arctic fox in mainland Western Europe has lost genetic diversity as a result of both past climate change and human persecution. Consequently, it might be particularly vulnerable to the future challenges posed by climate change. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'The past is a foreign country: how much can the fossil record actually inform conservation?'
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0212DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6863501PMC
December 2019

A local evaluation of the individual state-space to scale up Bayesian spatial capture-recapture.

Ecol Evol 2019 Jan 18;9(1):352-363. Epub 2018 Dec 18.

Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource Management Norwegian University of Life Sciences Ås Norway.

Spatial capture-recapture models (SCR) are used to estimate animal density and to investigate a range of problems in spatial ecology that cannot be addressed with traditional nonspatial methods. Bayesian approaches in particular offer tremendous flexibility for SCR modeling. Increasingly, SCR data are being collected over very large spatial extents making analysis computational intensive, sometimes prohibitively so. To mitigate the computational burden of large-scale SCR models, we developed an improved formulation of the Bayesian SCR model that uses local evaluation of the individual state-space (LESS). Based on prior knowledge about a species' home range size, we created square evaluation windows that restrict the spatial domain in which an individual's detection probability (detector window) and activity center location (AC window) are estimated. We used simulations and empirical data analyses to assess the performance and bias of SCR with LESS. LESS produced unbiased estimates of SCR parameters when the AC window width was ≥5σ (: the scale parameter of the half-normal detection function), and when the detector window extended beyond the edge of the AC window by 2. Importantly, LESS considerably decreased the computation time needed for fitting SCR models. In our simulations, LESS increased the computation speed of SCR models up to 57-fold. We demonstrate the power of this new approach by mapping the density of an elusive large carnivore-the wolverine ()-with an unprecedented resolution and across the species' entire range in Norway (> 200,000 km). Our approach helps overcome a major computational obstacle to population and landscape-level SCR analyses. The LESS implementation in a Bayesian framework makes the customization and fitting of SCR accessible for practitioners working at scales that are relevant for conservation and management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4751DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6342129PMC
January 2019

Genome sequencing and conservation genomics in the Scandinavian wolverine population.

Conserv Biol 2018 12 7;32(6):1301-1312. Epub 2018 Sep 7.

Department of Ecology and Genetics, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.

Genetic approaches have proved valuable to the study and conservation of endangered populations, especially for monitoring programs, and there is potential for further developments in this direction by extending analyses to the genomic level. We assembled the genome of the wolverine (Gulo gulo), a mustelid that in Scandinavia has recently recovered from a significant population decline, and obtained a 2.42 Gb draft sequence representing >85% of the genome and including >21,000 protein-coding genes. We then performed whole-genome resequencing of 10 Scandinavian wolverines for population genomic and demographic analyses. Genetic diversity was among the lowest detected in a red-listed population (mean genome-wide nucleotide diversity of 0.05%). Results of the demographic analyses indicated a long-term decline of the effective population size (N ) from 10,000 well before the last glaciation to <500 after this period. Current N appeared even lower. The genome-wide F level was 0.089 (possibly signaling inbreeding), but this effect was not observed when analyzing a set of highly variable SNP markers, illustrating that such markers can give a biased picture of the overall character of genetic diversity. We found significant population structure, which has implications for population connectivity and conservation. We used an integrated microfluidic circuit chip technology to develop an SNP-array consisting of 96 highly informative markers that, together with a multiplex pre-amplification step, was successfully applied to low-quality DNA from scat samples. Our findings will inform management, conservation, and genetic monitoring of wolverines and serve as a genomic roadmap that can be applied to other endangered species. The approach used here can be generally utilized in other systems, but we acknowledge the trade-off between investing in genomic resources and direct conservation actions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13157DOI Listing
December 2018

Genetic rescue in an inbred Arctic fox () population.

Proc Biol Sci 2018 03;285(1875)

Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden.

Isolation of small populations can reduce fitness through inbreeding depression and impede population growth. Outcrossing with only a few unrelated individuals can increase demographic and genetic viability substantially, but few studies have documented such genetic rescue in natural mammal populations. We investigate the effects of immigration in a subpopulation of the endangered Scandinavian arctic fox (), founded by six individuals and isolated for 9 years at an extremely small population size. Based on a long-term pedigree (105 litters, 543 individuals) combined with individual fitness traits, we found evidence for genetic rescue. Natural immigration and gene flow of three outbred males in 2010 resulted in a reduction in population average inbreeding coefficient (), from 0.14 to 0.08 within 5 years. Genetic rescue was further supported by 1.9 times higher juvenile survival and 1.3 times higher breeding success in immigrant first-generation offspring compared with inbred offspring. Five years after immigration, the population had more than doubled in size and allelic richness increased by 41%. This is one of few studies that has documented genetic rescue in a natural mammal population suffering from inbreeding depression and contributes to a growing body of data demonstrating the vital connection between genetics and individual fitness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.2814DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5897638PMC
March 2018

Genomic consequences of intensive inbreeding in an isolated wolf population.

Nat Ecol Evol 2018 Jan 20;2(1):124-131. Epub 2017 Nov 20.

Department of Evolutionary Biology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, SE-752 36, Uppsala, Sweden.

Inbreeding (mating between relatives) is a major concern for conservation as it decreases individual fitness and can increase the risk of population extinction. We used whole-genome resequencing of 97 grey wolves (Canis lupus) from the highly inbred Scandinavian wolf population to identify 'identical-by-descent' (IBD) chromosome segments as runs of homozygosity (ROH). This gave the high resolution required to precisely measure realized inbreeding as the IBD fraction of the genome in ROH (F ). We found a striking pattern of complete or near-complete homozygosity of entire chromosomes in many individuals. The majority of individual inbreeding was due to long IBD segments (>5 cM) originating from ancestors ≤10 generations ago, with 10 genomic regions showing very few ROH and forming candidate regions for containing loci contributing strongly to inbreeding depression. Inbreeding estimated with an extensive pedigree (F ) was strongly correlated with realized inbreeding measured with the entire genome (r  = 0.86). However, inbreeding measured with the whole genome was more strongly correlated with multi-locus heterozygosity estimated with as few as 500 single nucleotide polymorphisms, and with F estimated with as few as 10,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms, than with F . These results document in fine detail the genomic consequences of intensive inbreeding in a population of conservation concern.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0375-4DOI Listing
January 2018

Let's stay together? Intrinsic and extrinsic factors involved in pair bond dissolution in a recolonizing wolf population.

J Anim Ecol 2017 Jan 28;86(1):43-54. Epub 2016 Sep 28.

Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-730 91, Riddarhyttan, Sweden.

For socially monogamous species, breeder bond dissolution has important consequences for population dynamics, but the extent to which extrinsic or intrinsic population factors causes pair dissolution remain poorly understood, especially among carnivores. Using an extensive life-history data set, a survival analysis and competing risks framework, we examined the fate of 153 different wolf (Canis lupus) pairs in the recolonizing Scandinavian wolf population, during 14 winters of snow tracking and DNA monitoring. Wolf pair dissolution was generally linked to a mortality event and was strongly affected by extrinsic (i.e. anthropogenic) causes. No divorce was observed, and among the pair dissolution where causes have been identified, death of one or both wolves was always involved. Median time from pair formation to pair dissolution was three consecutive winters (i.e. approximately 2 years). Pair dissolution was mostly human-related, primarily caused by legal control actions (36·7%), verified poaching (9·2%) and traffic-related causes (2·1%). Intrinsic factors, such as disease and age, accounted for only 7·7% of pair dissolutions. The remaining 44·3% of dissolution events were from unknown causes, but we argue that a large portion could be explained by an additional source of human-caused mortality, cryptic poaching. Extrinsic population factors, such as variables describing the geographical location of the pair, had a stronger effect on risk of pair dissolution compared to anthropogenic landscape characteristics. Population intrinsic factors, such as the inbreeding coefficient of the male pair member, had a negative effect on pair bond duration. The mechanism behind this result remains unknown, but might be explained by lower survival of inbred males or more complex inbreeding effects mediated by behaviour. Our study provides quantitative estimates of breeder bond duration in a social carnivore and highlights the effect of extrinsic (i.e. anthropogenic) and intrinsic factors (i.e. inbreeding) involved in wolf pair bond duration. Unlike the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that are commonly reported on individual survival or population growth, here we provide quantitative estimates of their potential effect on the social unit of the population, the wolf pair.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12587DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5215671PMC
January 2017

Genetic rescue in a severely inbred wolf population.

Mol Ecol 2016 10 6;25(19):4745-56. Epub 2016 Sep 6.

Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, P.O. Box 5685 Sluppen, Trondheim, NO-7485, Norway.

Natural populations are becoming increasingly fragmented which is expected to affect their viability due to inbreeding depression, reduced genetic diversity and increased sensitivity to demographic and environmental stochasticity. In small and highly inbred populations, the introduction of only a few immigrants may increase vital rates significantly. However, very few studies have quantified the long-term success of immigrants and inbred individuals in natural populations. Following an episode of natural immigration to the isolated, severely inbred Scandinavian wolf (Canis lupus) population, we demonstrate significantly higher pairing and breeding success for offspring to immigrants compared to offspring from native, inbred pairs. We argue that inbreeding depression is the underlying mechanism for the profound difference in breeding success. Highly inbred wolves may have lower survival during natal dispersal as well as competitive disadvantage to find a partner. Our study is one of the first to quantify and compare the reproductive success of first-generation offspring from migrants vs. native, inbred individuals in a natural population. Indeed, our data demonstrate the profound impact single immigrants can have in small, inbred populations, and represent one of very few documented cases of genetic rescue in a population of large carnivores.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/mec.13797DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5054837PMC
October 2016

DNA Metabarcoding Reveals Diet Overlap between the Endangered Walia Ibex and Domestic Goats - Implications for Conservation.

PLoS One 2016 14;11(7):e0159133. Epub 2016 Jul 14.

Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.

Human population expansion and associated degradation of the habitat of many wildlife species cause loss of biodiversity and species extinctions. The small Simen Mountains National Park in Ethiopia is one of the last strongholds for the preservation of a number of afro-alpine mammals, plants and birds, and it is home to the rare endemic Walia ibex, Capra walie. The narrow distribution range of this species as well as potential competition for resources with livestock, especially with domestic goat, Capra hircus, may compromise its future survival. Based on a curated afro-alpine taxonomic reference library constructed for plant taxon identification, we investigated the diet of the Walia ibex and addressed the dietary overlap with domestic goat using DNA metabarcoding of faecal samples. Faeces of both species were collected from different localities in the National Park. We show that both species are browsers, with forbs, shrubs and trees comprising the largest proportion of their diet, supplemented by grasses. There was a considerable overlap in dietary preferences. Several of the preferred diet items of the Walia ibex (Alchemilla sp., Hypericum revolutum, Erica arborea and Rumex sp.) were also among the most preferred diet items of the domestic goat. These results indicate that there is potential for competition between the two species, especially during the dry season, when resources are limited. Our findings, in combination with the expected increase in domestic herbivores, suggest that management plans should consider the potential threat posed by domestic goats to ensure future survival of the endangered Walia ibex.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0159133PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4945080PMC
July 2017

Noninvasive genetic sampling reveals intrasex territoriality in wolverines.

Ecol Evol 2016 Mar 9;6(5):1527-36. Epub 2016 Feb 9.

Norwegian Institute for Nature Research Trondheim Norway.

Due to its conspicuous manifestations and its capacity to shape the configuration and dynamics of wild populations, territorial behavior has long intrigued ecologists. Territoriality and other animal interactions in situ have traditionally been studied via direct observations and telemetry. Here, we explore whether noninvasive genetic sampling, which is increasingly supplementing traditional field methods in ecological research, can reveal territorial behavior in an elusive carnivore, the wolverine (Gulo gulo). Using the locations of genotyped wolverine scat samples collected annually over a period of 12 years in central Norway, we test three predictions: (1) male home ranges constructed from noninvasive genetic sampling data are larger than those of females, (2) individuals avoid areas used by other conspecifics of the same sex (intrasexual territoriality), and (3) avoidance of same-sex territories diminishes or disappears after the territory owner's death. Each of these predictions is substantiated by our results: sex-specific differences in home range size and intrasexual territoriality in wolverine are patently reflected in the spatial and temporal configuration of noninvasively collected genetic samples. Our study confirms that wildlife monitoring programs can utilize the spatial information in noninvasive genetic sampling data to detect and quantify home ranges and social organization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.1983DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4775525PMC
March 2016

Genetic footprints reveal geographic patterns of expansion in Fennoscandian red foxes.

Glob Chang Biol 2015 Sep 8;21(9):3299-312. Epub 2015 Jun 8.

Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit, Center for Veterinary Genetics, University of California Davis, Davis, CA, USA.

Population expansions of boreal species are among the most substantial ecological consequences of climate change, potentially transforming both structure and processes of northern ecosystems. Despite their importance, little is known about expansion dynamics of boreal species. Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are forecasted to become a keystone species in northern Europe, a process stemming from population expansions that began in the 19th century. To identify the relative roles of geographic and demographic factors and the sources of northern European red fox population expansion, we genotyped 21 microsatellite loci in modern and historical (1835-1941) Fennoscandian red foxes. Using Bayesian clustering and Bayesian inference of migration rates, we identified high connectivity and asymmetric migration rates across the region, consistent with source-sink dynamics, whereby more recently colonized sampling regions received immigrants from multiple sources. There were no clear clines in allele frequency or genetic diversity as would be expected from a unidirectional range expansion from south to north. Instead, migration inferences, demographic models and comparison to historical red fox genotypes suggested that the population expansion of the red fox is a consequence of dispersal from multiple sources, as well as in situ demographic growth. Together, these findings provide a rare glimpse into the anatomy of a boreal range expansion and enable informed predictions about future changes in boreal communities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12922DOI Listing
September 2015

Climatic change as an engine for speciation in flightless Orthoptera species inhabiting African mountains.

Mol Ecol 2009 Jan;18(1):93-108

Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway.

Many East African mountains are characterized by an exceptionally high biodiversity. Here we assess the hypothesis that climatic fluctuations during the Plio-Pleistocene led to ecological fragmentation with subsequent genetic isolation and speciation in forest habitats in East Africa. Hypotheses on speciation in savannah lineages are also investigated. To do this, mitochondrial DNA sequences from a group of bush crickets consisting of both forest and savannah inhabiting taxa were analysed in relation to Plio-Pleistocene range fragmentations indicated by palaeoclimatic studies. Coalescent modelling and mismatch distributions were used to distinguish between alternative biogeographical scenarios. The results indicate two radiations: the earliest one overlaps in time with the global spread of C4 grasslands and only grassland inhabiting lineages originated in this radiation. Climatically induced retraction of forest to higher altitudes about 0.8 million years ago, promoting vicariant speciation in species inhabiting the montane zone, can explain the second radiation. Although much of the biodiversity in East Africa is presently threatened by climate change, past climatic fluctuations appear to have contributed to the species richness observed in the East African hot spots. Perceiving forests as centres of speciation reinforces the importance of conserving the remaining forest patches in the region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.04002.xDOI Listing
January 2009

Diet shift of a facultative scavenger, the wolverine, following recolonization of wolves.

J Anim Ecol 2008 Nov 23;77(6):1183-90. Epub 2008 Jul 23.

Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Trondheim, Norway.

1. Wolves Canis lupus L. recolonized the boreal forests in the southern part of the Scandinavian peninsula during the late 1990s, but so far there has been little attention to its effect on ecosystem functioning. Wolf predation increases the availability of carcasses of large prey, especially moose Alces alces L., which may lead in turn to a diet switch in facultative scavengers such as the wolverine Gulo gulo L. 2. Using 459 wolverine scats collected during winter-spring 2001-04 for DNA identity and dietary contents, we compared diet inside and outside wolf territories while controlling for potential confounding factors, such as prey density. We tested the hypothesis that wolverine diet shifted towards moose in the presence of wolves, while taking into account possible sexual segregation between the sexes. Occurrence of reindeer, moose and small prey was modelled against explanatory covariates using logistic mixed-effects models. Furthermore, we compared diet composition and breadth among habitats and sexes. 3. Occurrence of reindeer, moose and small prey in the diet varied with prey availability and habitat. As expected, diet contained more moose and less reindeer and small prey in the presence of wolves. Their diet in tundra consisted of 40% reindeer Rangifer tarandus L., 39% moose and 9% rodents. In forest with wolf, their diet shifted to 76% moose, 18% reindeer and 5% rodents; compared to 42% moose, 32% reindeer and 15% rodents in forest without wolf. This diet switch could not be explained by higher moose density in wolf territories. Female diet consisted of more small prey than for males, but there was a tendency for females to use the highly available moose carrion opportunistically and to hunt less on small prey within wolf territories. 4. Our study highlights how wolves increase scavenging opportunities for wolverines, and how sexual differences in diet may also apply to large scavengers. Due to their more restricted home range, female wolverines are forced to rely more on hunting small prey. The relatively high occurrence of wolf kills, however, forms an important food source to wolverines in this area. The recolonization of wolves may therefore have contributed to the consequent recolonization of wolverines into the same area.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2008.01445.xDOI Listing
November 2008

Genetic analyses reveal independent domestication origins of Eurasian reindeer.

Proc Biol Sci 2008 Aug;275(1645):1849-55

Department of Basic Sciences and Aquatic Medicine, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, PO Box 8146, Departmental Division, 0033 Oslo, Norway.

Although there is little doubt that the domestication of mammals was instrumental for the modernization of human societies, even basic features of the path towards domestication remain largely unresolved for many species. Reindeer are considered to be in the early phase of domestication with wild and domestic herds still coexisting widely across Eurasia. This provides a unique model system for understanding how the early domestication process may have taken place. We analysed mitochondrial sequences and nuclear microsatellites in domestic and wild herds throughout Eurasia to address the origin of reindeer herding and domestication history. Our data demonstrate independent origins of domestic reindeer in Russia and Fennoscandia. This implies that the Saami people of Fennoscandia domesticated their own reindeer independently of the indigenous cultures in western Russia. We also found that augmentation of local reindeer herds by crossing with wild animals has been common. However, some wild reindeer populations have not contributed to the domestic gene pool, suggesting variation in domestication potential among populations. These differences may explain why geographically isolated indigenous groups have been able to make the technological shift from mobile hunting to large-scale reindeer pastoralism independently.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2008.0332DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2593925PMC
August 2008

Refugial origins of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus L.) inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences.

Evolution 2003 Mar;57(3):658-70

Department of Evolutionary Biology, Uppsala University, Nordbyvägen 18D, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.

The glacial-interglacial cycles of the upper Pleistocene have had a major impact on the recent evolutionary history of Arctic species. To assess the effects of these large-scale climatic fluctuations to a large, migratory Arctic mammal, we assessed the phylogeography of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) as inferred from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variation in the control region. Phylogenetic relationships among haplotypes seem to reflect historical patterns of fragmentation and colonization rather than clear-cut relationships among extant populations and subspecies. Three major haplogroups were detected, presumably representing three separate populations during the last glacial. The most influential one has contributed to the gene pool of all extant subspecies and seems to represent a large and continuous glacial population extending from Beringia and far into Eurasia. A smaller, more localized refugium was most likely isolated in connection with ice expansion in western Eurasia. A third glacial refugium was presumably located south of the ice sheet in North America, possibly comprising several separate refugial populations. Significant demographic population expansion was detected for the two haplogroups representing the western Eurasian and Beringian glacial populations. The former apparently expanded when the ice cap retreated by the end of the last glacial. The large continuous one, in contrast, seems to have expanded by the end of the last interglacial, indicating that the warm interglacial climate accompanied by marine transgression and forest expansion significantly confined population size on the continental mainland. Our data demonstrate that the current subspecies designation does not reflect the mtDNA phylogeography of the species, which in turn may indicate that morphological differences among subspecies have evolved as adaptive responses to postglacial environmental change.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0014-3820.2003.tb01557.xDOI Listing
March 2003

Rescue of a severely bottlenecked wolf (Canis lupus) population by a single immigrant.

Proc Biol Sci 2003 Jan;270(1510):91-7

Department of Evolutionary Biology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.

The fragmentation of populations is an increasingly important problem in the conservation of endangered species. Under these conditions, rare migration events may have important effects for the rescue of small and inbred populations. However, the relevance of such migration events to genetically depauperate natural populations is not supported by empirical data. We show here that the genetic diversity of the severely bottlenecked and geographically isolated Scandinavian population of grey wolves (Canis lupus), founded by only two individuals, was recovered by the arrival of a single immigrant. Before the arrival of this immigrant, for several generations the population comprised only a single breeding pack, necessarily involving matings between close relatives and resulting in a subsequent decline in individual heterozygosity. With the arrival of just a single immigrant, there is evidence of increased heterozygosity, significant outbreeding (inbreeding avoidance), a rapid spread of new alleles and exponential population growth. Our results imply that even rare interpopulation migration can lead to the rescue and recovery of isolated and endangered natural populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2002.2184DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1691214PMC
January 2003