Population genetic structure and dispersal patterns of grey wolf (Canis lupus) and golden jackal (Canis aureus) in Georgia, the Caucasus. Shakarashvili M, Kopaliani N, Gurielidze Z, Dekanoidze D, Ninua L, Tarkhnishvili D.Journal of Zoology. 2020 Sep

Abstract

Grey wolf and golden jackal are both common in Georgia, although they have different habitat preferences. The wolf is more common in mountain areas of the country, and jackals are more common in the lowland part of Georgia, with its milder and warmer climate. In recent decades, the abundance of both species increased. Simultaneously, the jackals are increasingly often sighted at higher elevations than previously recorded, and simultaneously, there are increased sightings of the wolves in lowlands of western Georgia, including the areas close to the Black Sea Coast. The analysis of partial mitochondrial DNA sequences and 20 microsatellite markers suggest substantially higher genetic diversity of wolves than the jackals in Georgia, which could be related to the late expansion of jackals into the Caucasus region (not before the Bronze Age). Clustering using a Bayesian approach based on the microsatellite markers suggests that the vast majority of both jackals and wolves sampled in western Georgia descend from recent migrants from the east of the country. The expansion of the two species may be related to the conservation efforts in the latest decades or/and climate change that explains the appearance of jackals in the mountain regions of Georgia, as well as in northern Europe.

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