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Detection of farm fox and hybrid genotypes among wild arctic foxes in Scandinavia

Abstract

In Scandinavia, farmed arctic foxes frequently escape from farms, raising concern about hybridization with the endangered wild population. This study was performed to find a genetic marker to distinguish escaped farm foxes from wild Scandinavian foxes. Microsatellite and mitochondrial control region variation were analyzed in 41 farm foxes. The results were compared with mitochondrial and microsatellite data from the wild population in Scandinavia. The farm foxes were genetically distinct from the wild foxes (F ST=0.254, P < 0.00001) and all farm foxes had a single control region haplotype different from those observed in the wild population. We developed a method based on Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) on the mitochondrial control region to differentiate between farmed and wild arctic foxes. This test was subsequently successfully used on 25 samples from free-ranging foxes, of which four had a suspected farm origin. All four of the suspected foxes, and none of the others, carried the farm fox haplotype. Three of these were successfully genotyped for all eleven microsatellite loci. A population assignment test and a Bayesian Markov Chain Monte Carlo analysis indicated that two of these individuals were escaped farm foxes, and that the third possibly was a hybrid between a farmed and a wild arctic fox.

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Acknowledgements

We are indebted to Lindsey Carmichael who provided us with sequences for microsatellite primers. We are grateful to Hannu T. Korhonen, John Linnell, Olav Strand, Magnus Tannerfeldt, Bodil Elmhagen and Kjell M. Derås, as well as all field personnel in Scandinavia, who helped with sample collection. David Nord and Linus Sandegren assisted in developing the RFLP method. This study was financed by EU-Life Nature within the SEFALO+ project and the Directorate for Nature Management in Norway.

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Correspondence to Anders Angerbjörn.

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Norén, K., Dalén, L., Kvaløy, K. et al. Detection of farm fox and hybrid genotypes among wild arctic foxes in Scandinavia. Conserv Genet 6, 885–894 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-005-9075-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-005-9075-8

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