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Validation of non-invasive genetic tagging in two large macaw species (Ara macao and A. chloropterus) of the Peruvian Amazon
- Olah, George, Heinsohn, Robert G., Brightsmith, Donald J., Espinoza, Jose R., Peakall, Rod
- Conservation genetics resources 2016 v.8 no.4 pp. 499-509
- Ara macao, DNA, blood, environmental factors, feathers, feces, genetic analysis, genetic markers, mammals, parrots, sex determination analysis, species identification, sympatry, Amazonia, Peru
- Genetic tagging is the unique identification of individuals by their DNA profile. This technique is well established in mammals, but it has not yet been widely adopted for birds. Extraction methods for minute amounts of DNA even enable the use of genetic tagging from non-invasive samples, like hair, scat, or feather. In this study, we evaluate the potential for non-invasive genetic tagging by using molted feathers of two sympatric macaw species in the Peruvian Amazon. Correct species identification is critical when relying on feathers for genetic analysis, so we describe multilocus methods for species identification. We evaluate the quality of naturally shed macaw feathers in tropical environmental conditions and present new primers for molecular sexing on the feather samples. We successfully validated 11 microsatellite markers for use in genetic tagging studies on large macaws and confirmed that DNA from blood and feather samples yields equivalent population genetic patterns. The techniques described here can be implemented for other birds with higher conservation concern.