ABSTRACT: Molecular identifications of salivary DNA are increasingly applied in wildlife forensic investigations, and are successfully used to identify unknown livestock predators, or elucidate cases of large carnivore attacks to humans. In Europe most of livestock predations are attributed to wolves (Canis lupus), thought free-ranging dogs are sometime the responsible, and false predations are declared by breeders to obtain compensations. In this study we analyzed 33 salivary DNA samples collected from the carcasses of 13 sheep and a horse presumably predated by wolves in seven farms in central Italy. Reliable individual genotypes were determined in 18 samples (corresponding to samples from nine sheep and the horse) using 12 unlinked autosomal microsatellites, mtDNA control-region sequences, a male-specific ZFX/ZFY restriction-site and four Y-linked microsatellites. Results indicate that eight animals were killed by five wolves (a male and four different females), the ninth by a female dog while the horse was post-mortem consumed by a male dog. The genotype of one female wolf matched with the genetic profile of a female wolf that was non-invasively sampled 4 years before in the same area near livestock predation remains. Genetic identifications always supported the results of veterinary reports. These findings show that salivary DNA genotyping, together with detailed veterinary field and necropsy reports, provides evidence which helps to correctly identify species, gender and individual genetic profiles of livestock predators, thus contributing to clarify attack dynamics and to evaluate the impact of wolf predations on husbandry.
Forensic science international. Genetics 11/2012; · 2.42 Impact Factor
ABSTRACT: Non-invasive genetic sampling (NGS) is increasingly used to estimate the abundance of rare or elusive species such as the
wolf (Canis lupus), which cannot be directly counted in forested mountain habitats. Wolf individual and familial home ranges are wide, potentially
connected by long-range dispersers, and their populations are intrinsically open. Appropriate demographic estimators are needed,
because the assumptions of homogeneous detection probability and demographic closeness are violated. We compiled the capture–recapture
record of 418 individual wolf genotypes identified from ca. 4,900 non-invasive samples, collected in the northern Italian
Apennines from January 2002 to June 2009. We analysed this dataset using novel capture–recapture multievent models for open
populations that explicitly account for individual detection heterogeneity (IDH). Overall, the detection probability of the
weakly detectable individuals, probably pups, juveniles and migrants (P=0.08), was ca. six times lower than that of the highly detectable wolves (P=0.44), probably adults and dominants. The apparent annual survival rate of weakly detectable individuals was lower (Φ=0.66)
than those of highly detectable wolves (Φ=0.75). The population mean annual finite rate of increase was λ=1.05±0.11,
and the mean annual size ranged from N=117 wolves in 2003 to N=233 wolves in 2007. This procedure, combining large-scale NGS and multievent IDH demographic models, provides the first
estimates of abundance, multi-annual trend and survival rates for an open large wolf population in the Apennines. These results
contribute to deepen our understanding of wolf population ecology and dynamics, and provide new information to implement sound
long-term conservation plans.
–Capture–recapture analyses–Individual detection heterogeneity–Multilocus genotypes–Non-invasive genetics–Population size estimation
Conservation Genetics 04/2012; 13(1):53-64. · 1.61 Impact Factor
ABSTRACT: The recent expansion of the Italian wolf population through the Apennine and western Alps, after centuries of contractions, is causing conflicts with human activities leading to a rise in poaching or illegal killings. Here we show how molecular population genetics has been used to identify a suspect serial wolf killer. We analysed DNA extracted from a necklace made of ten presumed wolf canine teeth, confiscated in 2008 to a man living in the northern Italian Apennine (Liguria Region). Individual genotypes were determined using 12 unlinked autosomal microsatellites (STRs), mtDNA control-region sequences, a male-specific ZFX/ZFY restriction-site and three Y-linked STRs. Results indicate that the teeth belonged to six different individuals (three males and three females), which were assigned to the Italian wolf population with p > 0.90 by Bayesian procedures. One of these genotypes matched with the genetic profile of a male wolf previously found-dead and already non-invasively sampled in the same area. Another genotype matched with that of a female wolf non-invasively sampled twice in the same area 1 year before. These data are being used as forensic genetic evidence in the ongoing criminal trial against the suspect serial wolf killer.
Forensic science international. Genetics 11/2009; 4(5):334-8. · 2.42 Impact Factor
ABSTRACT: Wolves in Italy strongly declined in the past and were confined south of the Alps since the turn of the last century, reduced in the 1970s to approximately 100 individuals surviving in two fragmented subpopulations in the central-southern Apennines. The Italian wolves are presently expanding in the Apennines, and started to recolonize the western Alps in Italy, France and Switzerland about 16 years ago. In this study, we used a population genetic approach to elucidate some aspects of the wolf recolonization process. DNA extracted from 3068 tissue and scat samples collected in the Apennines (the source populations) and in the Alps (the colony), were genotyped at 12 microsatellite loci aiming to assess (i) the strength of the bottleneck and founder effects during the onset of colonization; (ii) the rates of gene flow between source and colony; and (iii) the minimum number of colonizers that are needed to explain the genetic variability observed in the colony. We identified a total of 435 distinct wolf genotypes, which showed that wolves in the Alps: (i) have significantly lower genetic diversity (heterozygosity, allelic richness, number of private alleles) than wolves in the Apennines; (ii) are genetically distinct using pairwise F(ST) values, population assignment test and Bayesian clustering; (iii) are not in genetic equilibrium (significant bottleneck test). Spatial autocorrelations are significant among samples separated up to c. 230 km, roughly correspondent to the apparent gap in permanent wolf presence between the Alps and north Apennines. The estimated number of first-generation migrants indicates that migration has been unidirectional and male-biased, from the Apennines to the Alps, and that wolves in southern Italy did not contribute to the Alpine population. These results suggest that: (i) the Alps were colonized by a few long-range migrating wolves originating in the north Apennine subpopulation; (ii) during the colonization process there has been a moderate bottleneck; and (iii) gene flow between sources and colonies was moderate (corresponding to 1.25-2.50 wolves per generation), despite high potential for dispersal. Bottleneck simulations showed that a total of c. 8-16 effective founders are needed to explain the genetic diversity observed in the Alps. Levels of genetic diversity in the expanding Alpine wolf population, and the permanence of genetic structuring, will depend on the future rates of gene flow among distinct wolf subpopulation fragments.
Molecular Ecology 04/2007; 16(8):1661-71. · 5.52 Impact Factor