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Development of a microsatellite marker set for individual identification of Hungarian fallow deer for forensic purposes
Turi Orsolya - year 3
University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, Department Animal Breeding, Nutrition and Laboratory Animal Science
Supervisors: Petra Zenke, Orsolya Zorkóczy

Abstract:

Amongst the cervid species living in Hungary, the fallow deer has the 3rd most abundant population from which 45% are shot out annually. The species has great value in wildlife management due to venison, antler trophies and the infrastructure built on deer hunting. Moreover, it also has cultural and conservational importance. Although the hunting of the species is regulated by the law, fallow deer might be a victim of poachers, as poaching shows an increasing rate in Hungary. It is difficult to solve such cases, however, the genetic analysis of deer samples found at the crime scene and on the suspect’s belongings might help to connect the culprit to the case.

In order to do so, a genetic marker set for individual identification of fallow deer is needed which is not currently available. The aim of our research is to develop a set of markers that are capable of the aforementioned purpose and with additional research and validation, it could also be used in law enforcement. It is important that the allelic variations might alter among populations from different areas, therefore regional studies to create a proper methodology are required for individual identification.

Several wildlife forensic research has been conducted for similar aims, therefore we were able to select our markers (microsatellites) from previous publications on closely related species. We either used the described primers or designed new ones. We were looking for markers that have more than one allele (polymorphic ones) because these could be suitable for the individual identification of fallow deer.

During our research 100 different primer pairs were tested with PCR and capillary electrophoresis for which we used universal labelled primers. We tested these markers on fallow deer tissue samples originating from different regions of Hungary.

Our results – in accordance with other international research – showed that the Hungarian fallow deer population has low genetic diversity. Until now, only six of the tested markers proved to be polymorphic, with five having only two alleles and the last having five alleles. In conclusion, this marker set is not yet able to perform individual identification, however, the markers have been tested only on a limited number of samples (5-20 deer depending on the marker) so far. In the future, we plan to analyse our microsatellites on more samples, thus we will have a greater chance of finding more polymorphism. Furthermore, we would like to test additional microsatellites for the purpose of increasing the number of functional markers.



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