Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt


The CEwolf consortium


CEwolf logo

Large carnivores, such as the grey wolf (Canis lupus), the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) and the brown bear (Ursus arctos), are naturally re-expanding in Europe following conservation measures implemented since the 1970s. They are returning to areas from which they were absent for decades or even centuries.

To aid their conservation and management, the wolf populations in Europe are closely being monitored. These monitoring programmes rely extensively on genetic investigations, based on so-called non-invasive samples: animal materials found in the field from which DNA can be obtained (e.g. scats, hairs, urine). Furthermore, the research often involves individuals that move across national borders, which are meaningless to them.

CEwolf is an international consortium that cooperates on population genetic research of wolves in Central Europe. Wolves are effective long-distance dispersers that regularly travel hundreds of kilometres away from their source pack to find partners and new territories. Since the year 2000, wolves are spreading throughout Western and Central Europe. They are recolonizing former habitats in Western Poland, Germany, Denmark, and Czech Republic, with (up to now) occasional occurrences in neighbouring countries such as the Netherlands.

The main aim of the CEwolf consortium is to harmonize genetic methodologies and genotype data to allow for transnational comparisons of wolf individuals and pack structures and to allow for a comprehensive understanding of population and range dynamics. Consortiums ensure direct compatibility of data produced in different laboratories and provide the most cost-effective use of limited financial resources in biodiversity monitoring and conservation by avoiding repetitive genetic analysis. With the use of molecular techniques we support the monitoring of wolf expansion in Central Europe and aim at a better understanding of the ecological requirements of large carnivores, their spatial and genetic variation and their potential impact on nature and society.


Who are we?

We are currently members of six scientific organizations from four countries, with expertise in population genetics and/or wolf ecology. To allow for population-wide assessments of genetic data and the identification of individuals across country borders, we agreed on cooperation and on common markers and methods.


CE wolf group

Group picture of the first CEwolf consortium meeting, August 5th 2014, Senckenberg Research Institute, Gelnhausen. From left to right: Robert Mysłajek, Arjen de Groot, Liselotte Wesley Andersen, Ilka Reinhardt, Sabina Nowak, Maciej Szewczyk, Carsten Nowak, Verena Harms and Hugh Jansman.


People and institutes involved


CEwolf members

Involved countries and institutions: currently we consist of 6 partners from four countries, with one central genetics laboratory for each country involved (Alterra, Senckenberg, Aarhus, Warsaw).


Animal Ecology team, Alterra-Wageningen UR, the Netherlands

      Arjen de Groot, Hugh Jansman


Association for Nature Wolf, Poland

      Sabina Nowak


Conservation Genetics Group, Senckenberg Research Institute, Germany

      Carsten Nowak, Anne Jarausch, Laura Hollerbach, Violeta Munoz-Fuentes


Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Denmark

      Liselotte Wesley Andersen


Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology, University of Warsaw, Poland

      Robert Mysłajek, Ana Stanković, Maciej Szewczyk


LUPUS Wildlife Consultancy, Germany

      Ilka Reinhardt, Gesa Kluth


We welcome institutes from other countries with an interest in becoming partners in the CEwolf consortium!

Why and how do we cooperate?

Harmonizing monitoring schemes and laboratory methods

Decades of wolf genetic research have yielded a large number of genetic markers to tackle both fundamental and applied research questions. Studies on wolf genetics have undoubtedly increased our understanding of the ecology, the demographic history and the population structure of wolves. However, attempts to connect results of such studies at larger spatial or temporal scales often suffer from the incompatibility of genetic markers implemented by different laboratories, which even make the identification of the source population of an individual difficult. Such a situation raises the need for harmonized monitoring schemes that would enable the understanding of gene flow and dispersal dynamics at a scale that really matters for long distance dispersers, such as wolves. Moreover, recent methodological advances are now in place, which aim at surveying more regions of the genome and an ever increasing number of samples at rapid speed to answer questions in greater detail. Therefore, there is an urgent need to overcome the current fragmentation of research and enable production of relevant, continent-wide studies which are required for successful conservation and management.

Wolf distribution Europe

Distribution of the grey wolf in Europe. Colours indicate permanent wolf presence, and light grey sporadic wolf presence. Excluding Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, for which no detailed data was available, 10 populations are recognized. Distribution and population divisions are largely based on Chapron et al. (2014). Source: deGroot et al. 2015, Mammal Review, in press.


Marker systems and protocols are well-established in several labs throughout the species’ range. By selecting best-performing markers that have been used for characterizing adjacent wolf populations, Senckenberg researchers have chosen a panel of 14 selection-neutral microsatellite loci, one mitochondrial (control region) sequence stretch and two sex determining markers in order to genetically characterize wolf samples. Since 2009, this panel has been successfully applied to >2,500 wolf samples (April 2015).

On the first meeting of the CEwolf consortium in August 2014, the founding members agreed to follow the Senckenberg protocols, as they have proven to be successful and all samples analyzed until 2014 have been run using these markers. In order to harmonize methods, all CEwolf labs:

In addition, we have established the first SNP genotyping technology suitable for noninvasively collected wolf samples (Kraus et al., 2015).

Exchange local developments

Rapid developments in the distribution, abundance and behavior of wolves occur in each of the countries involved in CEwolf. To allow a complete and up-to-date overview of the status of the Central European wolf population, the consortium acts as a platform for its members to update each other on local developments.

Joint research

Through the intensive collaboration and data standardization we aim for joint research output concerning the population structure of Central European wolves.

Selected publications

Andersen, L. W., Harms, V., Caniglia, R., Czarnomska, S. D., Fabbri, E., Jędrzejewska, B., et al. (2015) Long-distance dispersal of a wolf, Canis lupus, in northwestern Europe. Mammal Research, 1-6.

Anderson, T. M., vonHoldt, B. M., Candille, S. I., Musiani, M., Greco, C., Stahler, D. R., et al. (2009) Molecular and evolutionary history of melanism in North American gray wolves. Science, 323, 1339-1343.

de Groot GA, Nowak C, Skrbinšek T, Andersen L, Aspi J, Fumagalli L, Godinho R, Harms, V, Jansman HAH, Liberg O, Marucco F, Mysłajek RW, Nowak S, Pilot M, Randi E, Reinhardt I, Śmietana W, Szewczyk M, Taberlet P, Vilà C, Muñoz-Fuentes V. Decades of population genetic research call for harmonization of molecular markers: the grey wolf, Canis lupus, as a case study. Mammal Review, in press.

Chapron, G., Kaczensky, P., Linnell, J. D. C., von Arx, M., Huber, D., Andrén, H., et al. (2014) Recovery of large carnivores in Europe’s modern human-dominated landscapes. Science, 346, 1517-1519.

Ciucci, P., Reggioni, W., Maiorano, L., & Boitani, L. (2009) Long-distance dispersal of a rescued wolf from the northern Apennines to the western Alps. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 73, 1300-1306.

Czarnomska, S., Jędrzejewska, B., Borowik, T., Niedziałkowska, M., Stronen, A., Nowak, S., et al. (2013) Concordant mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA structuring between Polish lowland and Carpathian Mountain wolves. Conservation Genetics, 14, 573-588.

European Commission. (2007) Guidance document on the strict protection of animal species of Community interest under the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC. Brussels, European Commission.

Gravendeel, B., de Groot, A., Kik, M., Beentjes, K. K., Bergman, H., Caniglia, R., et al. (2013) The first wolf found in the Netherlands in 150 years was the victim of a wildlife crime. Lutra, 56, 93-109.

Harms, V., Nowak, C., Carl, S., & Muñoz-Fuentes, V. (2015) Experimental evaluation of genetic predator identification from saliva traces on wildlife kills. Journal of Mammology, 96, 138-143.

Hindrikson, M., Männil, P., Ozolins, J., Krzywinski, A., & Saarma, U. (2012) Bucking the trend in wolf-dog hybridization: first evidence from Europe of hybridization between female dogs and male wolves. PLoS ONE, 7, e46465.

Hindrikson, M., Remm, J., Männil, P., Ozolins, J., Tammeleht, E., & Saarma, U. (2013) Spatial genetic analyses reveal cryptic population structure and migration patterns in a continuously harvested grey wolf (Canis lupus) population in north-eastern Europe. PLoS ONE, 8, e75765.

Jędrzejewksi, W., Branicki, W., Veit, C., Medugorac, I., Pilot, M., Bunevich, A. N., et al. (2005) Genetic diversity and relatedness within packs in an intensely hunted population of wolves Canis lupus. Acta Theriologica, 50, 3-22.

Kraus, R. H. S., vonHoldt, B., Cocchiararo, B., Harms, V., Bayerl, H., Kühn, R., et al. (2015) A single-nucleotide polymorphism-based approach for rapid and cost-effective genetic wolf monitoring in Europe based on noninvasively collected samples. Molecular Ecology Resources, 15, 295-305.

Pilot, M., Branicki, W., Jedrzejewski, W., Goszczynski, J., Jedrzejewska, B., Dykyy, I., et al. (2010) Phylogeographic history of grey wolves in Europe. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 10, 104.

Pilot, M., Greco, C., vonHoldt, B. M., Jedrzejewska, B., Randi, E., Jedrzejewski, W., et al. (2014) Genome-wide signatures of population bottlenecks and diversifying selection in European wolves. Heredity, 112, 428-442.

Pilot, M., Jedrzejewski, W., Branicki, W., Sidorovich, V. E., Jedrzejewska, B., Stachura, K., et al. (2006) Ecological factors influence population genetic structure of European grey wolves. Molecular Ecology, 15, 4533-4553.

Randi, E. (2011) Genetics and conservation of wolves Canis lupus in Europe. Mammal Review, 41, 99-111.

Ražen, N., Castagna, C., Kljun, F., & et al. Documented long-distance dispersal of wolf (Canis lupus) from Dinaric population with successful pack formation. In Proceedings of the V: International Conference Wolf Conservation in Human Dominated Landscapes.

Reinhardt, I., Kluth, G., Nowak, S., & Myslajek, R. W. (2013) A review of wolf management in Poland and Germany with recommendations for future transboundary collaboration. BfN-Skripten, 356.

Ripple, W. J., Estes, J. A., Beschta, R. L., Wilmers, C. C., Ritchie, E. G., Hebblewhite, M., et al. (2014) Status and ecological effects of the world’s largest carnivores. Science, 343.

Stronen, A. V., Jędrzejewska, B., Pertoldi, C., Demontis, D., Randi, E., Niedziałkowska, M., et al. (2013) North-south differentiation and a region of high diversity in European wolves (Canis lupus). PLoS ONE, 8, e76454.

Vilà, C., Walker, C., Sundqvist, A. K., Fagstad, Ø., Andersone, Z., Casulli, A., et al. (2003) Combined use of maternal, paternal and bi-parental genetic markers for the identification of wolf-dog hybrids. Heredity, 90, 17-24.

vonHoldt, B. M., Pollinger, J. P., Earl, D. A., Knowles, J. C., Boyko, A. R., Parker, H., et al. (2011) A genome-wide perspective on the evolutionary history of enigmatic wolf-like canids. Genome Research, 21, 1294-1305.