Differentiating between Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) and northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) scats through analysis of faecal DNA

Authors

  • JASON N. WAITE,

    1. Alaska SeaLife Center, 301 Railway Ave, PO Box 1329, Seward AK 99664, USA
    2. School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska, Fairbanks AK 99775, USA
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  • LISETTE P. WAITS,

    1. Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow ID 83844, USA
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  • MARY BOZZA,

    1. Alaska SeaLife Center, 301 Railway Ave, PO Box 1329, Seward AK 99664, USA
    2. Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University, Newport OR 97365, USA
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  • RUSSEL D. ANDREWS

    1. Alaska SeaLife Center, 301 Railway Ave, PO Box 1329, Seward AK 99664, USA
    2. School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska, Fairbanks AK 99775, USA
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Jason N. Waite, Fax: 1 907 474 5863; E-mail: jason.waite@alaska.edu

Abstract

We describe a method to determine the species of pinniped from faeces collected from sympatric Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) and northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) rookeries using newly developed species-specific primers that amplify a 667–669-base pair segment from the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cytochrome B (cytB) gene region. The primers yielded the correct species in 100% of tissue samples from 10 known animals and 100% of faecal samples from 13 known animals. Species could be identified unequivocally for 87.7% of faecal samples from 122 unknown individuals. The ability to differentiate between scats of sympatrically breeding Steller sea lions and northern fur seals will contribute to the range-wide knowledge of the foraging strategies of both species as well as allow researchers to examine the niche partitioning and potential resource competition between the two predators.

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