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Shed skin as a source of DNA for genotyping seals


Bradley J. Swanson, Fax: 989 774 3462; E-mail:


Obtaining a sufficient number of DNA samples from ice-breeding marine phocids, in a noninvasive manner, has proven difficult and has limited the ability to use molecular genetics on these species. We evaluate the ability to genotype ringed seals using a novel source of DNA, skin cells shed by the seal as it moults on sea ice. We found that shed skin samples yielded a lower quantity and purity of DNA compared to tissue samples. Nevertheless, the shed skin cells were a viable source of DNA for microsatellite analysis; we found no significant difference in allelic diversity or heterozygosities between tissue samples and shed skin cells. This source of DNA should allow the rapid collection of a large number of noninvasively collected DNA samples in ice-breeding phocids.