Obtaining high-quality DNA from elusive small mammals using low-tech hair snares
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- Henry, P. & Russello, M.A. Eur J Wildl Res (2011) 57: 429. doi:10.1007/s10344-010-0449-y
Noninvasive sampling approaches are becoming increasingly important for enabling genetic studies of wildlife populations. While a number of methods have been described to noninvasively sample hair from carnivores and medium-sized mammals, they have largely remained untested in elusive small mammals. Here we describe a novel and inexpensive noninvasive hair snare targeted at an elusive small mammal, the American pika (Ochotona princeps). We explore the quality of the sample by assessing PCR amplification success of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA fragments across four commercially available DNA isolation kits and two different quantities of hair in a factorial design. Additionally, we determined the sex of the individual samples using PCR–RFLP of ZFX/ZFY loci. We found that our snare is effective in obtaining hair that yield DNA of sufficient quality and quantity to successfully amplify a range of mitochondrial and nuclear fragment sizes. Specifically, we found the greatest success in amplifying mitochondrial DNA, nuclear microsatellites and ZFX/ZFY loci using at least 25 hairs as starting material and the DNA IQ™ system. The hair snares thus provide a cost-effective and minimally intrusive approach to sample elusive or rare small mammals. We anticipate that this approach will be useful to obtain samples for molecular studies of the ecology, evolution and conservation of small, elusive mammals.