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

Norén, Karin, Dalén, Love, Kvaløy, Kirsti, Angerbjörn, Anders
Conservation genetics 2005 v.6 no.6 pp. 885-894
Markov chain, Monte Carlo method, farms, foxes, genetic markers, genotyping, haplotypes, hybridization, hybrids, microsatellite repeats, restriction fragment length polymorphism, Scandinavia
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.