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Swift Fox Symposium

A Noninvasive Method for Distinguishing Among Canid Species: Amplification and Enzyme Restriction of Mitochondrial DNA From Scats

Eleni Paxinos1, Carl McIntosh2, Katherine Ralls2, and Robert Fleischer2. 1Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912. 2National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20008.

Endangered San Joaquin kit foxes can be sympatrically distributed with as many as four other canids: red fox, gray fox, coyote and domestic dog. Canid scats are often found during field work but cannot be positively identified to species. To detect and study the kit fox, we developed mitochondrial DNA markers that can be amplified from small amounts of DNA extracted from scats. We amplified a 412-bp fragment of the mitochondrial enzyme cytochrome-b from scat samples and digested it with three restriction enzymes. The resulting restriction profiles discriminated among all five canid species and correctly identified 10 "unknown" scats to species in blind tests. We have applied our technique to identify scats collected by other researchers. Our protocol could be adapted for swift foxes.

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