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Genomic analysis of wolves from Pakistan clarifies boundaries among three divergent wolf lineages

Authors - Lauren M. Hennelly, Ghulam Sarwar, Hira Fatima, Geraldine Werhahn, Fakhar I. Abbas, Abdul M. Khan, Tariq Mahmood, Shannon Kachel, Zairbek Kubanychbekov, Muhammad T. Waseem, Rubab Zahra Naqvi, Abdul Hamid, Yasir Abbas, Hamera Aisha, Muhammad Waseem, Muhammad Farooq, Benjamin N. Sacks.

Abstract -

Among the three main divergent lineages of gray wolf (Canis lupus), the Holarctic lineage is the most widespread and best studied, particularly in North America and Europe. Less is known about Tibetan (also called Himalayan) and Indian wolf lineages in southern Asia, especially in areas surrounding Pakistan where all three lineages are thought to meet. Given the endangered status of the Indian wolf in neighboring India and unclear southwestern boundary of the Tibetan wolf range, we conducted mitochondrial and genome-wide sequencing of wolves from Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan. Sequences of the mitochondrial D-loop region of 81 wolves from Pakistan indicated contact zones between Holarctic and Indian lineages across the northern and western mountains of Pakistan. Reduced-representation genome sequencing of eight wolves indicated an east-to-west cline of Indian to Holarctic ancestry, consistent with a contact zone between these two lineages in Pakistan. The western boundary of the Tibetan lineage corresponded to the Ladakh region of India’s Himalayas with a narrow zone of admixture spanning this boundary from the Karakoram Mountains of northern Pakistan into Ladakh, India. Our results highlight the conservation significance of Pakistan’s wolf populations, especially the remaining populations in Sindh and Southern Punjab that represent the highly endangered Indian lineage.

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