Mammal Research

, Volume 61, Issue 4, pp 299–307 | Cite as

Fur and faeces: an experimental assessment of non-invasive DNA sampling for the European pine marten

  • L. M. Kubasiewicz
  • J. Minderman
  • L. C. Woodall
  • C. P. Quine
  • R. Coope
  • K. J. Park
Original Paper


Non-invasive genetic sampling using materials such as faeces or hair can be used to monitor wildlife populations, although DNA quality is often poor. Improving sampling efficiency and minimising factors that reduce DNA quality are therefore critical. After a severe decline, the European pine marten, Martes martes, has reclaimed much of its former range in Scotland, UK. Recording this rapid range expansion requires developing techniques for accurate monitoring, but this is hampered by the species’ elusive behaviour. We tested two sampling methods, hair collected from hair tubes and faeces (scat) collected along tracks, to assess the effects of key environmental and sampling variables on DNA quality and sampling efficiency. For hair, we tested the influence of hair tube location (distance from forest tracks) on collection rate and sex ratio of animals successfully sampled. For scats, we assessed the effect of time since defecation (1 to 16 days) on genotyping error rates and success under two contrasting environmental conditions (exposed to rainfall or sheltered). We found no bias in the collection rate or sex ratio of animals detected by hair samples with differing proximity to forest tracks. DNA amplification failure for scats exposed to rainfall increased from 28 to 65 % over the 16-day experimental period. During periods of low rainfall, the length of collection sessions could therefore be extended to increase sample number without risk of DNA degradation. Lack of bias in hair collection rates with proximity to forest tracks provides justification for tube placement close to tracks, as this reduces survey effort. These findings provide guidance for the development of efficient and cost-effective non-invasive sampling of Scottish pine martens.


Non-invasive genetics Elusive species DNA degradation Martes martes Allelic dropout False alleles 



We would like to thank David Bavin, Lizzie Croose, Tara Curry, Melissa Simmons and Kayleigh McCrory for help with data collection; Stuart A’Hara, Bridget Laue (Forest Research) and Catherine O’Reilly (Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland) for advice on genetic analysis; and Ron Summers (RSPB) for advice and support. This project was funded by the University of Stirling, Forestry Commission, Forest Research, the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Supplementary material

13364_2016_276_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 16 kb)
13364_2016_276_MOESM2_ESM.docx (14 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 14 kb)


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Copyright information

© Crown Copyright 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. M. Kubasiewicz
    • 1
  • J. Minderman
    • 2
  • L. C. Woodall
    • 3
  • C. P. Quine
    • 4
  • R. Coope
    • 4
  • K. J. Park
    • 1
  1. 1.Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK
  2. 2.School of BiologyUniversity of St Andrews, Dyers Brae HouseSt AndrewsUK
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyNatural History MuseumLondonUK
  4. 4.Forest Research, Centre for EcosystemsSociety and Biosecurity, Northern Research StationScotlandUK

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