Norwegian wolves are extinct

Norwegian and Swedish wolves are probably gone forever. Today’s population is the descendant of the Finnish wolf who moved to the border between the two countries after the original population was extinct about 50 years ago. Credits: Per-Harald Olsen, NTNU

According to extensive research on genetic composition, the wolves found in Norway and Sweden today are actually Finnish. Humans wiped out the original Norwegian wolf population in the wild around 1970.

“Original Norwegian-Swedish Wolf Perhaps he did not share genetics with the Norwegian and Swedish wolves today, “says Hans Stenoyen, director of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) University Museum.

Stenøien is the first author of a new report that deals with the genetic makeup of Norwegian and Swedish wolf populations in much more detail than before.

“We conducted the world’s largest wolf genetic study,” says Stenøien.

This is the last part of a large report on Norwegian wolves commissioned by Norwegian Storting (Parliament) in 2016. But by then, real Norwegian and Swedish wolves had been gone for years.

“Sure, you can still see the original Norwegian and Swedish wolves at zoos outside Norway, but today’s wolves aren’t closely related to them,” Stenøien said.

Disappeared and returned

Wolves came to Norway about 12,000 years ago when the ice receded. But by about 1970 it had disappeared from the Norwegian landscape, and perhaps even from Sweden. High hunting pressure and conflict with agriculture have contributed, especially to the decline of animals.

However, it seems that this species was reconstructed around 1980. Today, more than 400 wolves roam the Norwegian-Swedish border. They are considered a shared population.

Early on, there were rumors that zoo wolves were released into the wild in Norway, but this doesn’t seem to be true. In any case, they could not have been animals from the original Norwegian wolf population. Instead, Finnish wolves seem to have expanded their territory.

“Today’s Norwegian and Swedish wolves are likely to come from wolves migrating from Finland,” says Professor Stenøien.

I’m not entirely sure where I came from Finland, but I’m still Finnish.

Wolves threatened by serious inbreeding

At first glance, the Norwegian and Swedish wolves are genetically different from the wolves that live in Finland today. But this is neither good news nor a sign that Norway has a clear wolf population.

Norwegian wolves are extinct

The Norwegian wild wolf population is the descendant of a small number of Finnish animals. Credit: Kjetil Kolbjørnsrud

“Norwegian and Swedish wolves showed no signs of special or unique genetic adaptation,” says Stenøien.

Instead, the reason for the genetic difference is not much benign, but a result of the size of the wolf population, which is small and has limited influx of new genes from other regions.

Inbreeding means that today’s Norwegian and Swedish wolves have few genetic variations, says Stenøien.

This probably means that the wild wolves in this area come from a very small number of Finnish animals. Therefore, genetic defects can spread more easily from generation to generation. Unfavorable genes are not effectively eliminated by natural selection.

“This lack of change makes wolves vulnerable to a variety of diseases and genetic conditions,” explains Stenøien.

In Norway, not only this hunt, but also inbreeding reduces the resilience of animals, so there is a risk that the wolf will die again.

1300 wolves were examined in detail

This is the second part of a report commissioned by Storting five years ago, which is a detailed genetic study. The first part is a review of a previous survey, delivered in 2017.

The work on this part of the report was led by a co-expert in genetics at NTNU and the University of Copenhagen. The last author is Professor Tom Gilbert, who belongs to both institutions. Mike Martin, a professor at NTNU’s Onsager Research Fellows, co-led the project. Researcher Xin Sun at the NTNU University Museum did most of the work. In addition, 34 researchers and institutions provided sample material.

The research group originally had gene samples from more than 1800 wolves from around the world, especially from Europe. About 500 samples were not well-shaped for use for a variety of reasons. Most often because the material is too old or deteriorated.

The researchers used about 1300 gene samples as the basis for their conclusions. This time, they compared all the genetic material of the wolf, the genome, not just some of the wolves.

According to the report, the dataset represents the global genetic makeup of wolves and dogs.

Norwegian-Swedish wolves have no dogs

In addition to wolf samples, the research group included genetic samples from 56 different breeds to investigate whether dog characteristics could be found in Norwegian and Swedish wolf populations. Dogs and wolves are so closely related that they can be mated to produce offspring.

Norwegian wolves are extinct

Norwegian wolves are at least real wolves. They have few dog genes. Credit: Kjetil Kolbjørnsrud

However, Norwegian and Swedish wolves show little trace. dog..

“Wolves in this country are one of the fewest dogs in the world, and probably have very few dog characteristics,” says Stenøien.

Norwegian and Swedish wolves can be both inbreeding and Finnish, but at least they are real wolves.

Management of wolves to others

Stenøien does not want to speculate on the impact of these genetic consequences on the management of Norwegian and Swedish wolves.

“It’s not our job to comment on anything other than the facts of this study,” he says.

Stenøien leaves the discussion to politicians and various stakeholders. As is well known, the Norwegian wolf problem is a hot button problem and is very disruptive.

Norwegian-Swedish wolves probably left forever

Theoretically, it is possible that real Norwegian-Swedish wolves scattered in the zoo could give genes to today’s wild Norwegian and Swedish wolves.

This can both be reduced Inbreeding Reintroduce some of the original genetic material into the Norwegian and Swedish wild wolf populations.

When asked directly, Stenøien admits that it is “probably possible, but it is certainly expensive, difficult and does a lot of work” to bring in the zoo wolf gene.

He says nothing about whether it is worth the effort, effort, money to do this, or whether using resources to save other parts of Norway’s nature is a better option. not. There is no shortage of challenges.

Given the decades of discord that erupted when rumors spread that wolves were released wild from the zoo, we can only speculate if this really happened.

Authentic Norwegian-Swedish wolf Perhaps it has disappeared forever from its original landscape.

The origin of Scandinavian wolves revealed

Quote: Norwegian wolves are extinct (1 December 2021) 1 December 2021

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