There is strong negative-assortative mating for gray and black pelage color in the iconic wolves in Yellowstone National Park. This is the first documented case of significant negative-assortative mating in mammals and one of only a very few cases in vertebrates. Of 261 matings documented from 1995 to 2015, 63.6% were between gray and black wolves and the correlation between mates for color was -0.266. There was a similar excess of matings of both gray males × black females and black males × gray females. Using the observed frequency of negative-assortative mating in a model with both random and negative-assortative mating, the estimated proportion of negative-assortative mating was 0.430. The estimated frequency of black wolves in the population from 1996 to 2014 was 0.452 and these frequencies appear stable over this 19-year period. Using the estimated level of negative-assortative mating, the predicted equilibrium frequency of the dominant allele was 0.278, very close to the mean value of 0.253 observed. In addition, the patterns of genotype frequencies, that is, the observed proportion of black homozygotes and the observed excess of black heterozygotes, are consistent with negative-assortative mating. Importantly these results demonstrate that negative-assortative mating could be entirely responsible for the maintenance of this well-known color polymorphism.
- Disassortative mating
- Fixation index
- Heterozygote advantage
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)