Articles | Volume 17, issue 1
Standard article
09 Mar 2017
Standard article |  | 09 Mar 2017

Validating the use of non-invasively sourced DNA for population genetic studies using pedigree data

Faye Wedrowicz, Jennifer Mosse, Wendy Wright, and Fiona E. Hogan

Abstract. Non-invasive genetic sampling has provided valuable ecological data for many species – data which may have been unobtainable using invasive sampling methods. However, DNA obtained non-invasively may be prone to increased levels of amplification failure and genotyping error.

Utilizing genotype data from 32 pedigreed koalas, this study aimed to validate the reliability of final consensus genotypes obtained using DNA isolated from koala scats. Pedigree analysis, duplicate genotyping, analysis of mismatched loci and tests for null alleles were used to look for evidence of errors.

All genetically confirmed parent–offspring relationships were found to follow Mendelian rules of inheritance. Duplicate genotypes matched in all cases and there was no evidence of null alleles. Related individuals always had different 12-marker genotypes having a minimum of three unique loci (in one full sibling pair), a mode of seven unique loci and a maximum of 11 unique loci.

This study demonstrates the capacity of DNA recovered from koala scats to provide reliable genotypes that can unequivocally discriminate individuals and infer parentage, provided data are missing from no more than two loci. Validating data obtained using non-invasive sampling is an important step, allowing potential problems to be identified at an early stage.

Short summary
Non-invasive collection of DNA from scats (faeces) can enable the rapid acquisition of data. Ensuring data reliability is important. We therefore aimed to validate genetic data obtained from koala scats by comparison with known pedigree relationships. We found that DNA from koala scats provides reliable data that can discriminate individuals and infer parentage. The ability to non-invasively sample koala DNA can assist in the collection of data critical for koala conservation.