Keystone species are integral to maintaining the balance and health of ecosystems.
Keystone species are integral to maintaining the balance and health of ecosystems. As top predators, gray wolves profoundly impact their environment by controlling herbivore populations and affecting vegetation growth and diversity. One well-known example of this is the reintroduction of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, which had a ripple effect throughout the entire ecosystem.
A recent study co-authored by Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Emeritus Professor Philip Hedrick and Michigan Technological University Assistant Professor Sarah Hoy unveils the intricate relationship between genetic processes in gray wolves and the extensive effects on the ecosystem dynamics of Isle Royale National Park (IRNP).
The study, titled “The far-reaching effects of genetic process in a keystone predator species, grey wolves,” was recently published in the journal Science Advances. In it, the researchers focused on understanding how genetic changes within the gray wolf population could affect their ecosystem.
Read more at: Arizona State University
The arrival of M93 (the large, lighter-colored wolf at front center) rescued the population, allowing for genomic diversity, improving overall fitness and increasing wolf numbers. (Photo Credit: John Vucetich)