Deer Genetics and Population Health
- Species discrimination of Mule Deer and White-Tailed Deer by Microsatellite Markers: Use in Forensic Casework.
Holly Ernest, Bruce Hoar, Jay Well, and Katherine O'Rourke
Molecular genetic data provide powerful tools for genealogy reconstruction to reveal mechanisms underlying disease ecology. Kin-related close social spacing in deer may be a factor in the spread of infectious diseases. Spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a prion disorder of deer and their cervid relatives, is presumed to be associated with direct contact between individuals and by exposure to shared food and water sources contaminated with prions shed by infected deer. Key aspects of disease ecology are yet unknown. DNA tools for pedigree reconstruction were developed to fill knowledge gaps in disease dynamics in prion-infected wild animals. Kinship indices using data from microsatellite loci and sequence haplotypes of mitochondrial DNA were employed to assemble genealogies. These molecular genealogy tools will be useful for landscape-level population genetic research and monitoring, in addition to epidemiologic studies examining transmission of CWD in captive and free ranging cervids.
Ernest HB, Hoar BR, Well, JA, O'Rourke K. In press 2010. Molecular genealogy tools for white-tailed deer with Chronic Wasting Disease. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research.
Analysis of deer DNA poses a challenge to forensic casework since many species are closely-related. Because of this genetic similarity, Megan Caulder is researching a way that DNA analysts could easily distinguish two closely-related deer species from one another by means of a micro satellite/Short Tandem Repeat (STR) panel. She is focusing her research on discriminating white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) from mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), two species that are genetically similar and overlap in distribution in western North America. One objective of forensic science involves the ability to link the suspect of a crime with the scene of a crime. This research aims to aid the wildlife forensic community by providing a method of determining whether the species of deer remains at a scene is the same species as those remains associated with the suspect.