Volume 36 Issue 2
Mar.  2015
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Alice LAGUARDIA, Jun WANG, Fang-Lei SHI, Kun SHI, Philip RIORDAN. Species identification refined by molecular scatology in a community of sympatric carnivores in Xinjiang, China. Zoological Research, 2015, 36(2): 72-78.
Citation: Alice LAGUARDIA, Jun WANG, Fang-Lei SHI, Kun SHI, Philip RIORDAN. Species identification refined by molecular scatology in a community of sympatric carnivores in Xinjiang, China. Zoological Research, 2015, 36(2): 72-78.

Species identification refined by molecular scatology in a community of sympatric carnivores in Xinjiang, China

Funds:  This study was supported by the Second National Survey of Terrestrial Wildlife in China, State Forestry Administration of China; the Darwin Inititive; and the Robertson Foundation.
Appendix 1&2
More Information
  • Corresponding author: Kun SHI
  • Received Date: 2014-05-19
  • Rev Recd Date: 2014-11-20
  • Publish Date: 2015-03-08
  • Many ecological studies and conservation management plans employ noninvasive scat sampling based on the assumption that species' scats can be correctly identified in the field. However, in habitats with sympatric similarly sized carnivores, misidentification of scats is frequent and can lead to bias in research results. To address the scat identification dilemma, molecular scatology techniques have been developed to extract DNA from the donor cells present on the outer lining of the scat samples. A total of 100 samples were collected in the winter of 2009 and 2011 in Taxkorgan region of Xinjiang, China. DNA was extracted successfully from 88% of samples and genetic species identification showed that more than half the scats identified in the field as snow leopard (Panthera uncia) actually belonged to fox (Vulpes vulpes). Correlation between scat characteristics and species were investigated, showing that diameter and dry weight of the scat were significantly different between the species. However it was not possible to define a precise range of values for each species because of extensive overlap between the morphological values. This preliminary study confirms that identification of snow leopard feces in the field is misleading. Research that relies upon scat samples to assess distribution or diet of the snow leopard should therefore employ molecular scatology techniques. These methods are financially accessible and employ relatively simple laboratory procedures that can give an indisputable response to species identification from scats.
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