FROM POOP TO SCOOP: A NOVEL METHOD TO SURVEY BLUNT NOSED LEOPARD LIZARD AND SYMPATRIC LIZARDS USING GENETICS AND NONINVASIVE FECAL SAMPLES.
Mark J. Statham; University of California, Davis; One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA, 95616; (530) 754-7932; statham@ucdavis.edu; Michael F. Westphal, Ben N. Sacks
Noninvasive genetic sampling is a powerful technique for the study of elusive or otherwise difficult to monitor species. While such methods are widely used in birds and mammals, they have never been successfully applied on a large scale in reptiles. The blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia sila) is an endangered species endemic to the San Joaquin Desert of California. Presently, G. sila is monitored for regulatory purposes solely via visual surveys. Here we describe a novel genetic method for definitive typing of fecal samples from G. sila and sympatric lizard species. We developed two PCR-based assays that produce fluorescently labelled amplicons of species-specific fragment length for six lizard species in the study area. Tests on known samples indicated 100% accuracy. We successfully identified to species 78% of field-collected samples (n = 329). The majority of these samples (82%; 210 of 257) were confirmed as G. sila, followed by Aspidoscelis tigris (western whiptail; 10.5%), and small numbers of three other lizard species. Beyond the immediate application of these techniques for the study and monitoring of G. sila, our ability to recover usable DNA and to differentiate among a diverse group of lizards highlights the broad potential for noninvasive sampling in reptiles.
Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles II