Incorporating Genotyping Error Into Non-Invasive DNA-Based Mark—Recapture Population Estimates



ABSTRACT  Use of non-invasive sources of DNA, such as hair or scat, to obtain a genetic mark for population estimates is becoming commonplace. Unfortunately, with such marks, potentials for genotyping errors and for the shadow effect have resulted in use of many loci and amplification of each specimen many times at each locus, drastically increasing time and cost of obtaining a population estimate. We proposed a method, the Genotyping Uncertainty Added Variance Adjustment (GUAVA), which statistically adjusts for genotyping errors and the shadow effect, thereby allowing use of fewer loci and one amplification of each specimen per locus. Using allele frequencies and estimates of genotyping error rates, we determined, for each pair of specimens, the probability that the pair was obtained from the same individual, whether or not their observed genotypes match. Using these probabilities, we reconstructed possible capture history matrices and used this distribution to obtain a population estimate. With simulated data, we consistently found our estimates had lower bias and smaller variance than estimates based on single amplifications in which genotyping error was ignored and that were comparable to estimates based on data free of genotyping errors. We also demonstrated the method on a fecal DNA data set from a population of red wolves (Canis rufus). The GUAVA estimate based on only one amplification genotypes compares favorably to the estimate based on consensus genotypes. A program to conduct the analysis is available from the first author for UNIX or Windows platforms. Application of GUAVA may allow for increased accuracy in population estimates at reduced cost.