Inbreeding in Island Wolves
This activity guides the analysis of a published scientific figure from a study that explored inbreeding depression in a small, isolated population of wolves.
Due to human activities, many wild habitats are becoming smaller and more fragmented. This can lead to decreases in population sizes and subsequent increases in inbreeding. Inbred offspring may have genetic conditions that reduce their ability to survive and reproduce, which is called inbreeding depression.
This study examined the wolves of Isle Royale, a small island population with significant inbreeding depression. To determine the genetic impact of inbreeding and basis of inbreeding depression, scientists compared the DNA of the Isle Royale wolves to that of wolves from the mainland. The figure shows some of their results.
The “Educator Materials” document includes a captioned figure, background information, graph interpretation, and discussion questions. The “Student Handout” includes a captioned figure and background information.
Student Learning Targets
- Analyze and interpret data from a scientific figure.
- Use genotype and allele data to distinguish between potential causes of inbreeding depression.
- Propose how habitat loss and fragmentation may affect inbreeding in wildlife populations.
bar graph, derived allele, founder effect, genotype, heterozygote, homozygote, inbreeding depression, Mann-Whitney U (MWU) test, recessive, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)
Robinson, J. A., J. Räikkönen, L. M. Vucetich, J. A. Vucetich, R. O. Peterson, K. E. Lohmueller, and R. K. Wayne. “Genomic signatures of extensive inbreeding in Isle Royale wolves, a population on the threshold of extinction.” Science Advances 5, 5 (2019): eaau0757. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aau0757.
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Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-3; SEP2, SEP4, SEP5
AP Biology 2019
IST-1.J, IST-4.A, EVO-1.H, EVO-1.J; SP1, SP4
IB Biology 2016
3.4, 4.1, 10.2, 10.3, C.1
AP Environmental Science 2020
Topics(s): 2.3, 9.10
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.D, EIN-4.C; SP5
IB Environmental Systems and Societies 2017
Common Core 2010
Vision and Change 2009