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Genetic measures confirm familial relationships and strengthen study design

Authors

  • Stacie J. Robinson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, 1630 Linden Drive, Room 208 Russell Labs, Madison, WI 53706, USA
    • Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, 1630 Linden Drive, Room 208 Russell Labs, Madison, WI 53706, USA
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  • Ryan D. Walrath,

    1. Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, 1630 Linden Drive, Room 208 Russell Labs, Madison, WI 53706, USA
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  • Timothy R. Van Deelen,

    1. Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, 1630 Linden Drive, Room 208 Russell Labs, Madison, WI 53706, USA
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  • Kurt C. VerCauteren

    1. National Wildlife Research Center, United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, 4101 LaPorte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521, USA
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  • Associate Editor: Rominger

Abstract

Social structure and behavioral interactions between individuals shape basic biological processes, such as breeding; foraging and predator avoidance; movement and dispersal; and disease transmission. We used a targeted trapping strategy to capture kin groups of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) during 2007 and 2008 in Sandhill Wildlife Research Area, Wisconsin, USA, in order to observe social behaviors. Because inferring family relationships from observation of behavior is subjective, we used measures of genetic relatedness and parentage assignment tests to determine that our capture strategy was efficient for capturing related pairs (78% of groups contained ≥1 dyad of related animals). The results of our genetic tests verified that study animals were related; therefore, our capture strategy was successful and the assumptions of the research design were met. This demonstrates both the utility of a targeted sampling approach, and the importance of genetic techniques to verify relationships among animals, especially when kin association forms a basis for further biological study or management action. Published 2012. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

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