Haag, T., Santos, A. S., De Angelo, C., Srbek-Araujo, A. C., Sana, D. A., Morato, R. G., Salzano, F. M., & Eizirik, E. (2009). Development and testing of an optimized method for DNA-based identification of jaguar (Panthera onca) and puma (Puma concolor) faecal samples for use in ecological and genetic studies. Genetica, 136(3), 505–512.
The elusive nature and endangered status of most carnivore species imply that efficient approaches for their non-invasive sampling are required to allow for genetic and ecological studies. Faecal samples are a major potential source of information, and reliable approaches are needed to foster their application in this field, particularly in areas where few studies have been conducted. A major obstacle to the reliable use of faecal samples is their uncertain species-level identification in the field, an issue that can be addressed with DNA-based assays. In this study we describe a sequence-based approach that efficiently distinguishes jaguar versus puma scats, and that presents several desirable properties: (1) considerably high amplification and sequencing rates; (2) multiple diagnostic sites reliably differentiating the two focal species; (3) high information content that allows for future application in other carnivores; (4) no evidence of amplification of prey DNA; and (5) no evidence of amplification of a nuclear mitochondrial DNA insertion known to occur in the jaguar. We demonstrate the reliability and usefulness of this approach by evaluating 55 field-collected samples from four locations in the highly fragmented Atlantic Forest biome of Brazil and Argentina, and document the presence of one or both of these endangered felids in each of these areas.
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