Degradation Rates of DNA Extracted from Fecal Samples for Use with Molecular Markers

Research Task: 


Task Manager: 

Sara Oyler-McCance

Noninvasive genetic sampling of mountain lions (Felis concolor) is one of the few methods available that may provide realistic estimates of cougar populations in Colorado, which is something that has not been done successfully using traditional methods. Feces or scat samples could provide viable genetic material since epithelial cells shed from the intestinal tract appear in the feces. A marker system with the power to distinguish a small number of closely related individuals will also have sufficient power to distinguish among a large number of unrelated individuals. Before genetic sampling can be conducted, however, an assessment of potential genetic error rates must be made in order to appropriately design the sampling protocols and determine if such a method can provided reliable estimates. Using scat from captive cougars of known ages FORT scientists are subjecting samples to both controlled and uncontrolled environmental conditions in order to accurately assess the magnitude of error rates expected if scat samples are used for population estimations. Specifically, investigators are (1) evaluating differences in DNA quantity between a scat surface collection and a cross-sectional collection; (2) evaluating differences in DNA quantity from successive feces depositions to determine the variation in quantities of genetic material in scat; (3) quantifying differences in epithelial shedding rates; and (4) evaluating temporal, environmental, and seasonal effects on DNA quantity and quality for both controlled and uncontrolled conditions.

For more information contact:

Sara Oyler-McCance