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Wednesday, April 22 • 10:05am - 10:25am
Using molecular genetics to determine the relatedness of two river otters (Lontra canadensis), with implications for breeding and conservation

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The river otter species, Lontra canadensis, was considered endangered in North Carolina until 2008. These otters are now part of a captive breeding program aimed at supplementing rivers with low populations. Because of the limited number of individuals in wild populations, the maintenance of genetic diversity must be an important consideration for those undertaking conservation efforts. The Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, NC has two otters that they believe are unrelated enough to breed according the Species Conservation Act. The objective of this project was to determine the relatedness of these two individuals and establish their breeding suitability. DNA was extracted from fecal samples, and PCR was used to amplify five specific genetic loci. The PCR products were run on 3% agarose gel, and the coefficient of relatedness (R) was calculated. The coefficient of relatedness was used to determine whether or not the otters are unrelated enough to breed according to the WNC Nature Center’s guidelines. If sufficient measures are not taken to avoid inbreeding of closely related individuals, the breeding of captive river otters in order to introduce offspring into wild populations could have a detrimental impact on the genetic diversity of future populations. Therefore, the results of this project have important evolutionary implications for river otter conservation.

Wednesday April 22, 2015 10:05am - 10:25am PDT
014 Zeis Hall

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