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Forensic DNA analyses suggest illegal trade of canid skins

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Accurate identification of species and populations is essential for biodiversity conservation and for monitoring of international trade in wild species. Morphological and behavioural traits are not always reliable for species identification of samples of unknown origin, and suspected hybridization augments this challenge. We used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) markers to identify 24 canid skins illegally imported from Mongolia to Denmark in 1997. Our results indicated that the skins included both wolf (Canis lupus) and dog (Canis lupus familiaris) haplotypes. One of the wolf haplotypes was new. A phylogenetic analysis revealed that the skins shared haplotypes with wolves in Europe and Mongolia, which appears to support the assumption of a Mongolic origin though a different provenance cannot be excluded. We observed an apparent discrepancy between the skins’ morphological traits and the mtDNA identification for 10 out of 24 individuals. This might suggest the presence of hybrids, but poor quality DNA precluded reliable microsatellite typing to investigate hybridization. At present, the scarcity of published records for wolf mtDNA sequences from central Asia limits more detailed investigation and we recommend increased efforts to document genetic variation in this region.

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We thank Aalborg Zoo and Naturstyrelsen for loan of skins and information. We thank Aarhus University for laboratory space, Linda Hartun Konggaard for laboratory assistance, and reviewers for valuable comments that improved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Astrid Vik Stronen.

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This work was supported by Aalborg Zoo Conservation Foundation (AZCF).

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Communicated by: Cino Pertoldi

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Thomsen, C.L., Andersen, L.W. & Stronen, A.V. Forensic DNA analyses suggest illegal trade of canid skins. Mamm Res 61, 423–426 (2016).

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