Decades of population genetic research reveal the need for harmonization of molecular markers: The grey wolf Canis lupus as a case study

G.A. de Groot, Carsten Nowak, Tomaž Skrbinšek, Liselotte W. Andersen, Jouni Aspi, Luca Fumagalli, Raquel Godinho, Verena Harms, H.A.H. Jansman, Olof Liberg, Francesca Marucco, Robert W. Mysłajek, Sabina Nowak, Małgorzata Pilot, Ettore Randi, Ilka Reinhardt, Wojciech Śmietana, Maciej Szewczyk, Pierre Taberlet, Carles VilàVioleta Muñoz-Fuentes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Following protection measures implemented since the 1970s, large carnivores are currently increasing in number and returning to areas from which they were absent for decades or even centuries. Monitoring programmes for these species rely extensively on non-invasive sampling and genotyping. However, attempts to connect results of such studies at larger spatial or temporal scales often suffer from the incompatibility of genetic markers implemented by researchers in different laboratories. This is particularly critical for long-distance dispersers, revealing the need for harmonized monitoring schemes that would enable the understanding of gene flow and dispersal dynamics. Based on a review of genetic studies on grey wolves Canis lupus from Europe, we provide an overview of the genetic markers currently in use, and identify opportunities and hurdles for studies based on continent-scale datasets. Our results highlight an urgent need for harmonization of methods to enable transnational research based on data that have already been collected, and to allow these data to be linked to material collected in the future. We suggest timely standardization of newly developed genotyping approaches, and propose that action is directed towards the establishment of shared single nucleotide polymorphism panels, next-generation sequencing of microsatellites, a common reference sample collection and an online database for data exchange. Enhanced cooperation among genetic researchers dealing with large carnivores in consortia would facilitate streamlining of methods, their faster and wider adoption, and production of results at the large spatial scales that ultimately matter for the conservation of these charismatic species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-59
JournalMammal Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Collaboration
  • Genetic monitoring
  • Recommendations
  • Reference collection
  • Transnational research

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