, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 525-532

Last lynxes in Portugal? Molecular approaches in a pre-extinction scenario

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Abstract

The Iberian lynx is the most threatened felidin the world and has suffered a declinethroughout its range. Effective monitoring ofthe species' presence is essential. Fieldwork inpreviously identified areas of lynx occurrencein Portugal has resulted in the collection of104 possible lynx scats. Recently, there hasbeen little or no evidence of lynx presence andscats could be confused with others from moreabundant carnivores such as wildcat, fox anddog. In order to confirm or not exclude thepresence of the species, identification ofscats was performed through the amplificationof lynx-specific mitochondrial DNA sequences.Two samples collected in Malcata NaturalReserve in 1997 were identified as lynx. Thisis the most recent and reliable proof of lynxpresence in Portugal*. Given the territorialbehavior of lynx, stable resident populationswould have produced a higher proportion ofpositively identified scats. Local extinctionsmight have taken place, and this genetic datasupports a suspected national pre-extinctionscenario for the species. Genetic analysisusing a non-invasive approach has proved to bean informative part of the lynx monitoringprogram. Technical problems faced and overcomeare also presented.