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Ageing and environmental factors affect PCR success in wolf (Canis lupus) excremental DNA samples


Ettore Randi, Fax: +39051796628. E-mail:


Individual genotypes determined from noninvasive DNA samples (typically extracted from shed hairs or scats) are used to estimate population size in monitoring projects of elusive species. However, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) success rates usually are lower, and genotyping errors higher than in standard population genetic surveys, due to DNA degradation or contamination in aged field samples. In this study, we evaluate the results of common garden experiments showing that DNA degradation is significant in wolf (Canis lupus) scats older than 3 days, and it is enhanced in scats in direct contact with soil. A storage test showed that samples kept frozen in 95% ethanol performed better compared to other methods. However, variance of PCR success among samples was high, independent on sample age or storage condition. The detrimental consequences of DNA degradation can be avoided by collecting scat samples as fresh as possible, and implementing efficient multitube procedures and stringent quality control of the laboratory results. Efficient multitube procedures can produce reliable data, like in this study, which showed that the consensus genotypes obtained from excremental DNA exactly matched distinct reference genotypes obtained from wolf blood samples.