May 4, 2009

Calif. wolverine origin genetically placed

U.S. scientists say they've genetically identified the origins of a California wolverine, providing the first evidence of a link between regional populations.

A wolverine first photographed by a remote-controlled camera in the Tahoe National Forest in February 2008 has been found most closely related to Rocky Mountain populations, according to a team of 10 federal, state and university scientists.

The finding was obtained through genetic analysis of hair collected from the first scientifically verified California wolverine in 86 years. The U.S. Forest Service funded the study, which demonstrated the first evidence of connectivity between wolverine populations living in the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The researchers said determining where the male wolverine originated is important since the animals are a threatened species in the state, and California wolverines are genetically unique from other North American populations.

Researchers said the genetic analysis suggested the California wolverine most resembled a population comprised mostly of wolverines from Idaho, with a 73 percent confidence level.

The study appears in the journal Northwest Science.