The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region (198- to 598-bp) of four ancient Canis specimens (two Canis mandibles, a cranium, and a first phalanx) was examined, and each specimen was genetically identified as Japanese wolf. Two unique nucleotide substitutions, the 78-C insertion and the 482-G deletion, both of which are specific for Japanese wolf, were observed in each sample. Based on the mtDNA sequences analyzed, these four specimens and 10 additional Japanese wolf samples could be classified into two groups— Group A (10 samples) and Group B (4 samples)—which contain or lack an 8-bp insertion/deletion (indel), respectively. Interestingly, three dogs (Akita-b, Kishu 25, and S-husky 102) that each contained Japanese wolf-specific features were also classified into Group A or B based on the 8-bp indel. To determine the origin or ancestor of the Japanese wolf, mtDNA control regions of ancient continental Canis specimens were examined; 84 specimens were from Russia, and 29 were from China. However, none of these 113 specimens contained Japanese wolf-specific sequences. Moreover, none of 426 Japanese modern hunting dogs examined contained these Japanese wolf-specific mtDNA sequences. The mtDNA control region sequences of Groups A and B appeared to be unique to grey wolf and dog populations.
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Vol. 33 • No. 1