We investigated the feasibility of using genetic techniques to census pine marten (Martes martes) populations by genotyping non-invasively collected samples (plucked hair and scats), with particular reference to the genetically depauperate Irish population. Novel real-time polymerase chain reaction methods were developed for species and sex identification, targeting short DNA sequences. Background genetic variation at 17 microsatellite loci was very low in the Irish population, with an average of 2.29 alleles per locus and expected heterozygosity of 0.35. Despite such low polymorphism, a panel of eight loci with a sibling probability of identity of 0.011 reliably identified individual pine marten and their gender, as determined by reference to genotypes of live trapped individuals. With high nuclear DNA amplification success rates (93.8%) and low genotyping error rates (1.8%), plucked hairs may represent a more reliable and cost-effective DNA source than scats for monitoring populations of this elusive carnivore, and similar taxa such as the sympatric stone marten Martes foina.
- Low genetic diversity
- Real-time PCR