Noninvasive genetic analysis is being used increasingly in field surveys. However, detecting large and middle-sized mammals, such as Carnivora species, using noninvasive samples, such as scat or hair, is time- and labor-intensive due to their low densities and elusive behaviors. As snow tracks are the most frequently encountered natural signs of terrestrial mammals in winter, we employed several methods to recover environmental DNA (eDNA) from snow tracks. We performed both DNA metabarcoding and Sanger sequence analyses, in combination with universal primers on the mitochondrial 12S rRNA gene for mammals and taxon-specific primers on the mitochondrial NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 gene for Martes species (martens and sables in Mustelidae). Snow samples of four Martes melampus tracks, one Cervus nippon track, one Vulpes vulpes track, and the track of an unidentified Carnivora species were collected from a snowfall area in Kyoto, Japan, in February 2018. Regarding DNA metabarcoding analyses, the sequences of three Carnivora species (M. melampus, V. vulpes, and Canis lupus familiaris) and a deer (C. nippon) were obtained from their respective snow tracks. Using Sanger sequencing, eDNA on snow tracks was recovered at the species level except for M. melampus using universal primers, while eDNA of M. melampus was sequenced using Martes-specific primers. Snow track surveys in combination with eDNA techniques could dramatically improve the efficiency of monitoring and conservation of mammals.
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Vol. 36 • No. 3