Individual genotypes from environmental DNA: Fingerprinting snow tracks of three large carnivore species
AuthorDe Barba, Marta; Baur, Molly; Boyer, Frédéric; Fumagalli, Luca; Konec, Marjeta; Miquel, Christian; Pazhenkova, Elena; Remollino, Nadège; Skrbinšek, Tomaž; Stoffel, Céline; Taberlet, Pierre Robert Michel
Continued advancements in environmental DNA (eDNA) research have made it possible to access intraspecific variation from eDNA samples, opening new opportunities to expand non-invasive genetic studies of wildlife populations. However, the use of eDNA samples for individual genotyping, as typically performed in non-invasive genetics, still remains elusive. We present successful individual genotyping of eDNA obtained from snow tracks of three large carnivores: brown bear (Ursus arctos), European lynx (Lynx lynx) and wolf (Canis lupus). DNA was extracted using a protocol for isolating water eDNA and genotyped using amplicon sequencing of short tandem repeats (STR), and for brown bear a sex marker, on a high-throughput sequencing platform. Individual genotypes were obtained for all species, but genotyping performance differed among samples and species. The proportion of samples genotyped to individuals was higher for brown bear (5/7) and wolf (7/10) than for lynx (4/9), and locus genotyping success was greater for brown bear (0.88). The sex marker was typed in six out of seven brown bear samples. Results for three species show that reliable individual genotyping, including sex identification, is now possible from eDNA in snow tracks, underlining its vast potential to complement the non-invasive genetic methods used for wildlife. To fully leverage the application of snow track eDNA, improved understanding of the ideal species- and site-specific sampling conditions, as well as laboratory methods promoting genotyping success, is needed. This will also inform efforts to retrieve and type nuclear DNA from other eDNA samples, thereby advancing eDNA-based individual and population-level studies.