Written by : Lauren Hennelly, UC Davis Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit, USA.
Photos by : The Grasslands Trust/Unsplash.
Representational image of DNA (Photo : Unsplash)
Gray wolves are remarkable animals; they live in almost every type of environment and they are the ancestor to the dogs living in our homes today. But what’s the story behind this widespread animal? How do Indian wolves fit into that story?
Luckily, much of that story has been preserved in the gray wolf’s DNA. Scientists can sequence the DNA of animals and can use various methods to interpret the patterns of DNA into a story about that animal’s evolutionary history.
Indian Wolf (Photo : The Grasslands Trust)
There has been early indication that Indian wolves may play an interesting part in the gray wolf’s story. Based on mitochondrial DNA, all gray wolves across the Holarctic, which contains North America and Northern Eurasia, trace their ancestry back relatively recently. A study in 2003 was the first to suggest that the Indian and Tibetan wolves may be the two most evolutionarily distant branches of the gray wolf tree. However, this evidence was based on information from the mitochondria, which is a small region of DNA and is inherited only from the mother. What was really needed to gain the full picture of the evolutionary history of Indian wolves was a sequence of the nuclear genome.