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Mol Ecol. 1996 Apr;5(2):301-5.

Owl pellets as a source of DNA for genetic studies of small mammals.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Biologie des Populations d'Altitude, CNRS UMR 5553, Universit√© Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France,


Owl pellets contain a good skeletal record of the small mammals consumed, and correspond to the undigested portions of prey which are regurgitated. These pellets are easy to find at the roosting site of owls. As it has been demonstrated that amplifiable DNA can be isolated from ancient bone remains, the possibility of using owl pellets as a source of DNA for small mammal genetics studies via the polymerase chain reaction has been investigated. The main uncertainties when isolating DNA from such a material are firstly the possibility that the extracted DNA would be too degraded during the digestion in the stomach of the owl, and secondly that extensive cross-contaminations could occur among the different prey consumed. The results obtained clearly demonstrate that cross-contamination does not occur, and that mitochondrial and nuclear DNA can be amplified using skulls of small mammals found in owl pellets as a source of DNA. The relative efficiency of two methods of DNA extraction is estimated and discussed. Thus, owl pellets represent a non-invasive sampling technique which provides a valuable source of DNA for studying population genetics of small mammals.

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