August 1, 2021

From Wolves to Dogs, and Back: Genetic Composition of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog

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Abstract

The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a unique dog breed that originated from hybridization between German Shepherds and wild Carpathian wolves in the 1950s as a military experiment. This breed was used for guarding the Czechoslovakian borders during the cold war and is currently kept by civilian breeders all round the world. The aim of our study was to characterize, for the first time, the genetic composition of this breed in relation to its known source populations. We sequenced the hypervariable part of the mtDNA control region and genotyped the Amelogenin gene, four sex-linked microsatellites and 39 autosomal microsatellites in 79 Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs, 20 German Shepherds and 28 Carpathian wolves. We performed a range of population genetic analyses based on both empirical and simulated data. Only two mtDNA and two Y-linked haplotypes were found in Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs. Both mtDNA haplotypes were of domestic origin, while only one of the Y-haplotypes was shared with German Shepherds and the other was unique to Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs. The observed inbreeding coefficient was low despite the small effective population size of the breed, possibly due to heterozygote advantages determined by introgression of wolf alleles. Moreover, Czechoslovakian Wolfdog genotypes were distinct from both parental populations, indicating the role of founder effect, drift and/or genetic hitchhiking. The results revealed the peculiar genetic composition of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, showing a limited introgression of wolf alleles within a higher proportion of the dog genome, consistent with the reiterated backcrossing used in the pedigree. Artificial selection aiming to keep wolf-like phenotypes but dog-like behavior resulted in a distinctive genetic composition of Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs, which provides a unique example to study the interactions between dog and wolf genomes.<<<Read More>>>

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