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Incorporating Genotype Uncertainty into Mark–Recapture-Type Models For Estimating Abundance Using DNA Samples




Summary Sampling DNA noninvasively has advantages for identifying animals for uses such as mark–recapture modeling that require unique identification of animals in samples. Although it is possible to generate large amounts of data from noninvasive sources of DNA, a challenge is overcoming genotyping errors that can lead to incorrect identification of individuals. A major source of error is allelic dropout, which is failure of DNA amplification at one or more loci. This has the effect of heterozygous individuals being scored as homozygotes at those loci as only one allele is detected. If errors go undetected and the genotypes are naively used in mark–recapture models, significant overestimates of population size can occur. To avoid this it is common to reject low-quality samples but this may lead to the elimination of large amounts of data. It is preferable to retain these low-quality samples as they still contain usable information in the form of partial genotypes. Rather than trying to minimize error or discarding error-prone samples we model dropout in our analysis. We describe a method based on data augmentation that allows us to model data from samples that include uncertain genotypes. Application is illustrated using data from the European badger (Meles meles).