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Non-invasive genetic sampling of the the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) using hairs

By Heather Anderson, D. McCafferty, Llik Saccheri and Alan McCluskie


The material for the genetic characterisation of wild Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) has previously been derived from carcasses and spraints. Hair samples however have proved to be a much more reliable source of DNA than spraints, and offer the opportunity of sampling the living population non-invasively. Until now there has been no research into methods of sampling hairs from wild otters or on the DNA extraction efficiency from these hairs. A hair trap was therefore developed and tested on otters in captivity. The success rate of the trap was 0.71 samples collected per trap night. The suitability of genetic analysis from otter hairs was examined using paired samples of hair and tissue taken from 15 individual otters recovered from road mortalities. DNA was extracted from the tissue samples using a Proteinase K digestion in a PCR compatible buffer. This process had a 100% success rate. Individual root hair segments were treated by Chelex Ionic bead resin treatment and Proteinase K digestion in a PCR compatible buffer. The Chelex method gave a 55% amplification success rate while the Proteinase K method gave a much higher amplification success rate of 87%. The DNA extracts were typed for 9 microsatellites using the latest versions of the primers. Proportions of allelic dropout and false allele detection associated with hair DNA extracts were estimated by comparing the genotypes of hair extracts with the genotypes from tissue. Preliminary attempts to develop a ZFX/Y assay to sex otters identified polymorphisms between ZFX and ZFY sequences, but typing based on restriction digests requires further optimisation. The use of recovered DNA from hair offers a step forward in the study of Eurasian otter populations as its continuing endangered status in many countries creates legal and ethical constraints on capturing animals for marking or radio tracking

Topics: QL
Year: 2006
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Provided by: Enlighten
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