Conservation implications of elucidating the Korean wolf taxonomic ambiguity through whole-genome sequencing

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  • Germán Hernández-Alonso
  • Marta Maria Ciucani
  • Cecilie G. Clausen
  • Jong Bhak
  • Sungwon Jeon
  • Changjae Kim
  • Kyung Yeon Eo
  • Seong Ho Cho
  • Bazartseren Boldgiv
  • Gankhuyag Gantulga
  • Zunduibaatar Unudbayasgalan
  • Pavel A. Kosintsev
  • Hans K. Stenøien

The taxonomic status of the now likely extirpated Korean Peninsula wolf has been extensively debated, with some arguing it represents an independent wolf lineage, Canis coreanus. To investigate the Korean wolf's genetic affiliations and taxonomic status, we sequenced and analysed the genomes of a Korean wolf dated to the beginning of the 20th century, and a captive wolf originally from the Pyongyang Central Zoo. Our results indicated that the Korean wolf bears similar genetic ancestry to other regional East Asian populations, therefore suggesting it is not a distinct taxonomic lineage. We identified regional patterns of wolf population structure and admixture in East Asia with potential conservation consequences in the Korean Peninsula and on a regional scale. We find that the Korean wolf has similar genomic diversity and inbreeding to other East Asian wolves. Finally, we show that, in contrast to the historical sample, the captive wolf is genetically more similar to wolves from the Tibetan Plateau; hence, Korean wolf conservation programmes might not benefit from the inclusion of this specimen.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10404
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number8
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

    Research areas

  • Canis lupus, population genomics, taxonomic ambiguity, wolf conservation genetics, wolf population structure

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