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      Infanticide in brown bear: a case-study in the Italian Alps – Genetic identification of perpetrator and implications in small populations

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      Nature Conservation

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          Sexually Selected Infanticide (SSI) is thought of as a male reproductive strategy in social mammalian species, because females who lose cubs may quickly re-enter oestrus. SSI has rarely been documented in non-social mammals and, in brown bears, SSI has been studied mainly in an eco-ethological perspective. The authors examined the first genetically documented infanticide case which occurred in May 2015 in brown bears in Italy (Trentino, Central-Eastern Alps). The infanticide killed two cubs and their mother. Hair samples were collected from the corpses as well as saliva, through swabs on mother’s wounds, with the aim of identifying the genotype of the perpetrator. The samples were genotyped by PCR amplification of 15 autosomal microsatellite loci, following the protocol routinely used for individual bear identifications within the Interregional Action Plan for Brown Bear Conservation in the Central-Eastern Alps (PACOBACE). Reliable genotypes were obtained from the mother, cubs and putative perpetrator. The genotypes were matched with those populating the PACOBACE database and genealogies were reconstructed. Both mother and perpetrator genotypes were already present in the database. Kinship analyses confirmed mother-cubs relationships and identified the father of the cubs. In this study, for the first time, the authors used the open-source LRmix STUDIO software, designed to analyse human forensic genetic profiles, to solve a case in wildlife. Through LRmix STUDIO, those alleles that do not belong to the victims were isolated and, finally, the perpetrator was identified. This study presents a method that allows, through the application of different models, the genetic identification of the conspecific perpetrator with the highest probability. The identification of the infanticidal male is relevant for the better management and conservation of wild populations with small effective population size (Ne) and low population growth rate, especially in the case of recently established populations in human-dominated landscapes. This procedure will have predictably wide applications, supplying important data in the monitoring of small and isolated populations.

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          Most cited references 44

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          Estimating the probability of identity among genotypes in natural populations: cautions and guidelines.

          Individual identification using DNA fingerprinting methods is emerging as a critical tool in conservation genetics and molecular ecology. Statistical methods that estimate the probability of sampling identical genotypes using theoretical equations generally assume random associations between alleles within and among loci. These calculations are probably inaccurate for many animal and plant populations due to population substructure. We evaluated the accuracy of a probability of identity (P(ID)) estimation by comparing the observed and expected P(ID), using large nuclear DNA microsatellite data sets from three endangered species: the grey wolf (Canis lupus), the brown bear (Ursus arctos), and the Australian northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorinyus krefftii). The theoretical estimates of P(ID) were consistently lower than the observed P(ID), and can differ by as much as three orders of magnitude. To help researchers and managers avoid potential problems associated with this bias, we introduce an equation for P(ID) between sibs. This equation provides an estimator that can be used as a conservative upper bound for the probability of observing identical multilocus genotypes between two individuals sampled from a population. We suggest computing the actual observed P(ID) when possible and give general guidelines for the number of codominant and dominant marker loci required to achieve a reasonably low P(ID) (e.g. 0.01-0.0001).
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            Genotyping errors: causes, consequences and solutions.

            Although genotyping errors affect most data and can markedly influence the biological conclusions of a study, they are too often neglected. Errors have various causes, but their occurrence and effect can be limited by considering these causes in the production and analysis of the data. Procedures that have been developed for dealing with errors in linkage studies, forensic analyses and non-invasive genotyping should be applied more broadly to any genetic study. We propose a protocol for estimating error rates and recommend that these measures be systemically reported to attest the reliability of published genotyping studies.
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              • Abstract: not found
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              Infanticide among animals: A review, classification, and examination of the implications for the reproductive strategies of females

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Conservation
                NC
                Pensoft Publishers
                1314-3301
                1314-6947
                February 23 2018
                February 23 2018
                : 25
                : 55-75
                Article
                10.3897/natureconservation.25.23776
                © 2018

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