Management of wolves is a complex issue, and molecular genetics is an important tool in this work. Molecular genetics can provide important information at the species, population and individual level, which can be essential for the development of management programs aiming at the long term survival of wolf populations.
In this thesis I developed new genetic markers on the canine Y chromosome to estimate the number of founders of the Scandinavian wolf population. This knowledge is important to reconstruct the history of the population and to design the most appropriate conservation strategies. Next, genetic markers with different pattern of inheritance have been used to identify hybrids between wolves and dogs. This allowed us to determine the direction of hybridization and to evaluate its possible impact on the gene pool of a wolf population. Furthermore, I also developed a method for a more reliable identification of the predator responsible of an attack by using saliva remains left on the prey. Since predation on livestock is perhaps the main reason for the negative opinions about the predator, the correct identification of the responsible for an attack (wolf, dog or hybrid) is essential.
Finally, this thesis has also been focusing on the domestication of dogs. By using Y chromosome markers (paternally inherited), it has been possible to complement previous studies based on mtDNA sequences (maternally inherited) and autosomal markers (inherited from both parents). In this way I have obtained a more complete picture of the domestication process and of the origin of breeds. This has shown that there has been a bias in the contribution of the two sexes in the origin of dog breeds (fewer males then females contributing to each breed) and that the origin of dogs was not marked by extensive backcrosses with male wolves over the entire species range.