Species identification using a small nuclear gene fragment: Application to sympatric wild carnivores from South-western Europe

R. Oliveira, D. Castro, R. Godinho, G. Luikart, P. C. Alves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Species identification is essential for non-invasive studies of elusive and rare animals, and for detecting illegal harvest or trade of wildlife species. However, most molecular tests identify only a limited number of species or require multiple laboratory steps to distinguish many taxa. Additionally, most protocols use mitochondrial DNA being, therefore, especially prone to problems such as nuclear insert copies, high intraspecific diversity or heteroplasmy. Here, we developed a molecular test based on the polymorphisms detected on a small nuclear gene fragment (221 bp of the IRBP -Interphotoreceptor Retinoid-Binding Protein- exon 1). This fragment revealed 51 variable sites (including 12 non-synonymous and 19 species-specific sites), which enabled the successful distinction of all 16 carnivore species native to South-western Europe. A SSCP (Single-Strand Conformational Polymorphism) gel electrophoresis technique was also optimized to allow the simple and inexpensive application of this molecular test. Sequences and SSCP profiles were consistent in identifying a total of 387 samples, including faeces (172) and hairs (17) collected non-invasively in the field. Due to its low cost, simplicity, and wide range of identifiable species, this test shows great promise to facilitate studies in molecular ecology, conservation genetics, and forensic analysis, as well as DNA bar-coding projects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1023-1032
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Genetics
Volume11
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2010

Keywords

  • Carnivores
  • Conservation genetics
  • IRBP
  • Non-invasive genetics
  • Nuclear gene
  • Species ID
  • SSCP

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