Haag, T., Santos, A. S., Valdez, F. P., Sana, D. A., Silveira, L., Cullen, L., De Angelo, C., Morato, R. G., Crawshaw, P. G., Salzano, F. M., & Eizirik, E. (2010). Molecular tracking of jaguar melanism using faecal DNA. Conservation Genetics, 11(3), 1239–1242.
Major evolutionary questions remain elusive due to persistent difficulties in directly studying the genetics of variable phenotypes in natural populations. Many phenotypic variants may be of adaptive relevance, and thus important to consider in the context of conservation genetics. However, since the dynamics of these traits is usually poorly understood in the wild, their incorporation in conservation strategies is difficult to accomplish. For animals which exhibit intriguing phenotypic variation but are difficult to track in the wild, innovative approaches are required to investigate such issues. Here we demonstrate that non-invasive DNA sampling can be used to study the genetics and ecology of melanism in the jaguar, by directly genotyping the molecular polymorphism underlying this coloration trait. These results open new prospects for the in-depth investigation of this polymorphism, and highlight the broader potential of non-invasive DNA-based phenotype tracking for wildlife in general.
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