Evaluation of fecal samples as a valid source of DNA by comparing paired blood and fecal samples from American bison (Bison bison)
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BACKGROUND: The collection and analysis of fecal DNA is a common practice, especially when dealing with wildlife species that are difficult to track or capture. While fecal DNA is known to be lower quality than traditional sources of DNA, such as blood or other tissues, few investigations have verified fecal samples as a valid source of DNA by directly comparing the results to high quality DNA samples from the same individuals. Our goal was to compare DNA from fecal and blood samples from the same 50 American plains bison (Bison bison) from Yellowstone National Park, analyze 35 short tandem repeat (STR) loci for genotyping efficiency, and compare heterozygosity estimates. RESULTS: We discovered that some of the fecal-derived genotypes obtained were significantly different from the blood-derived genotypes from the same bison. We also found that fecal-derived DNA samples often underestimated heterozygosity values, in some cases by over 20%. CONCLUSIONS: These findings highlight a potential shortcoming inherent in previous wildlife studies that relied solely on a multi-tube approach, using exclusively low quality fecal DNA samples with no quality control to account for false alleles and allelic dropout. Herein, we present a rigorous marker selection protocol that is applicable for a wide range of species and report a set of 15 STR markers for use in future bison studies that yielded consistent results from both fecal and blood-derived DNA.
author list (cited authors)
Forgacs, D., Wallen, R. L., Boedeker, A. L., & Derr, J. N.