Amplifying Nuclear and Mitochondrial DNA from African Elephant Ivory: a Tool for Monitoring the Ivory Trade

Authors

  • KENINE E. COMSTOCK,

    1. Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue North, D4-100, Seattle, WA 98109–1024, U.S.A.
    2. Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, University of Washington, Box 351800, Seattle, WA 98195, U.S.A.
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  • ELAINE A. OSTRANDER,

    1. Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue North, D4-100, Seattle, WA 98109–1024, U.S.A.
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  • SAMUEL K. WASSER

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, University of Washington, Box 351800, Seattle, WA 98195, U.S.A.
      ‡ Address correspondence to S. K. Wasser, email wassers@u.washington.edu
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‡ Address correspondence to S. K. Wasser, email wassers@u.washington.edu

Abstract

Abstract: The ability to extract DNA from ivory provides the basis for genetically tracking the origin of poached ivory and thus has important implications for elephant conservation and management. We describe a method to isolate and amplify both genomic and mitochondrial DNA from African elephant ivory that requires very small amounts of ivory taken from any location on the tusk. We pulverized ivory and isolated DNA with a modified QIAamp kit. Ivory as old as 10 to 20 years, stored at ambient conditions, was amenable to DNA isolation with this method. The isolated DNA was robustly amplified at 16 elephant microsatellite loci and two mitochondrial DNA loci. This method has important applications for the forensic analysis of poached African elephant ivory. It enables determination of where stronger antipoaching efforts are needed and provides the basis for monitoring the extent of the trade as well as the consequences of future international trade decisions.

Abstract

Resumen: La habilidad para extraer ADN del marfil proporciona la base para rastrear genéticamente el origen de marfil furtivo y por tanto tiene implicaciones importantes para la conservación y el manejo de elefantes. Describimos un método para aislar y amplificar ADN genómico y mitocondrial de marfil de elefante africano que requiere de cantidades muy pequeñas de marfil tomadas de cualquier parte del colmillo. Pulverizamos el marfil y aislamos el ADN con un equipo QIAamp modificado. Con este método, fue posible aislar el ADN de marfil de 10 a 20 años, conservado en condiciones ambientales. El ADN aislado fue amplificado robustamente en 16 loci microsatélite y dos loci de ADN mitocondrial. Este método tiene aplicaciones importantes para el análisis forense de marfil de elefantes africanos cazados furtivamente. Permite la identificación de sitios donde se requieren mayores esfuerzos para combatir la cacería furtiva y proporciona la base para monitorear la extensión del comercio así como las consecuencias de decisiones futuras de comercio internacional.

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