Genetic analysis of scat reveals leopard Panthera pardus and cheetah Acinonyx jubatus in southern Algeria

07.01.2009 | By , , , , , , , , ,

Assessing the biodiversity of a region, particularly when it includes rare, cryptic and nocturnal species, is notoriously difficult but nevertheless of great importance, especially in regions that have received little prior research interest. Species in these regions are often only perceived to be present through the identification of animal signs such as scat or hair. Here we show how molecular techniques can be used to sequence mitochondrial DNA extracted from the scat of essentially unknown carnivore species and thus assess the species present in a remote desert region in southern Algeria. In doing so we present a reliable and reproducible method for determining carnivore biodiversity through non-invasive sampling. We also identify two species of large carnivore in an area where one, the cheetah Acinonyx jubatus, is known to exist but at very low densities, and another, the leopard Panthera pardus, has never previously been observed.

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