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Snake species identification using mitochondrial gene loci

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Snake species identification using mitochondrial gene loci

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Samenvatting

Many species have become extinct or threatened with extinction due to a number of reasons. This is predominantly due to human activities or industry. Snake species are also being driven out of their habitat and by the introduction of exotic animal species. For example, in the United States, more than half of all snake species currently listed are endangered [1].
Illegal trade of wildlife is a serious and growing crime worth more than US $20 billion dollars per year. In Australia, reptiles are the biggest target in wildlife trade because of the high financial value. From all trade crimes, less than 1% result in prosecution of the person involved [2]. When is it suspected that a wildlife crime has been committed, it is important to determine what species it is and whether the snake is endangered or not to enforce legislation. A databank with particular sequences of all species could help.
Therefore, investigation and design of DNA markers for forensic application is needed. During this study, genes (ND6 and cytochrome b) within the mitochondrial DNA from the carpet python, Morelia spilota, is investigated to see if these could function as a species identification test. Furthermore, phylogenetic relationships based on these genes between and within this snake species is investigated and compared to the taxonomy which is based on morphology.
ND6 and cytochrome b both showed a lot of intraspecies variation within the subspecies of the carpet python. The variation between two samples in ND6 is between 1.07% and 6.09%. In cytochrome b this was between 0.72% and 6.82%. In this last gene there was less variation between the samples from the east coast, but more variation between those samples and samples from the rest of Australia.
Both genes produced similar trees and could be used for species identification of the carpet python. Although the samples from the east coast are very similar to each other, all other species group separately.
These results compared to the taxonomy and unpublished research which assumed there are only two of three subspecies instead of six, it seems like the Morelia spilota can be divided into four subspecies; east coast of Australia, north Australia (Morelia spilota variegata), central Australia (Morelia spilota bredli) and west-south Australia (Morelia spilota imbricata).

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OrganisatieAvans Hogeschool
AfdelingATGM Academie voor de technologie van Gezondheid en Milieu
PartnersFlinders University, Adelaide, South Australia
Datum2012-08
TypeBachelor
TaalEngels

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