DNA fingerprinting and mitochondrial DNA analyses have not been used in combination to study relatedness in natural populations. We present an approach that involves defining the mean fingerprint similarities among individuals thought to be unrelated because they have different mtDNA genotypes. Two classes of related individuals are identified by their distance in standard errors above this mean value. The number of standard errors is determined by analysis of the association between fingerprint similarity and relatedness in a population with a known genealogy. We apply this approach to gray wolf packs from Minnesota, Alaska, and the Northwest Territories. Our results show that: (1) wolf packs consist primarily of individuals that are closely related genetically, but some packs contain unrelated, non-reproducing individuals; (2) dispersal among packs within the same area is common; and (3) short-range dispersal appears more common for female than male wolves. The first two of these genetically-based observations are consistent with behavioral data on pack structure and dispersal in wolves, while the apparent sex bias in dispersal was not expected.
Additional publication details
A study of the genetic relationships within and among wolf packs using DNA fingerprinting and mitochondrial DNA