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Kashiwagi T, Maxwell EA, Marshall AD, Christensen AB.2014. Evaluating manta ray mucus as an alternative DNA source for population genetics study: underwater-sampling, dry-storage and PCR success. PeerJ PrePrints2:e690v1https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.690v1
Sharks and rays are increasingly being identified as high-risk species for extinction, prompting urgent assessments of their local or regional populations. Advanced genetic analyses can contribute relevant information on effective population size and connectivity among populations although acquiring sufficient regional sample sizes can be challenging. DNA is typically amplified from tissue samples which are collected by hand spears with modified biopsy punch tips. This technique is not always popular due mainly to a perception that invasive sampling might harm the rays, change their behaviour, or have a negative impact on tourism. To explore alternative methods, we evaluated the yields and PCR success of DNA template prepared from the manta ray mucus collected underwater and captured and stored on a Whatman FTATM Elute card. The pilot study demonstrated that mucus can be effectively collected underwater using toothbrush. DNA stored on cards was found to be reliable for PCR-based population genetics studies. We successfully amplified mtDNA ND5, nuclear DNA RAG1, and microsatellite loci for all samples. As the yields of DNA with the tested method were low, further improvements are desirable for assays that may require larger amounts of DNA, such as population genomic studies using emerging next-gen sequencing.
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Mucus sampling using a small toothbrush held in the diver's hand