We evaluated the efficacy of using swabs to collect cells from the epidermis of octopus as a non-invasive DNA source for classical genetic studies, and demonstrated value of the technique by incorporating it into an effort to determine, within a day, the lineage of captured, live Enteroctopus (E. dofleini or a cryptic lineage). The cryptic lineage was targeted for captive behavioral and morphological studies, while once genetically identified, the non-target lineage could be more rapidly released back to the wild. We used commercially available sterile foamtipped swabs and a high-salt preservation buffer to collect and store paired swab and muscle (arm tip) tissue sampled from live Enteroctopus collected from Prince William Sound, Alaska. We performed a one-day extraction of DNA from epithelial swab samples and amplification of two diagnostic microsatellite loci to determine the lineage of each of the 21 individuals. Following this rapid lineage assessment, which allowed us to release non-target individuals within a day of laboratory work, we compared paired swab and muscle tissue samples from each individual to assess quantity of DNA yields and consistency of genotyping results, followed by assessment of locus-by-locus reliability of DNA extracts from swabs. Epithelial swabs yielded, on average, lower quantities of DNA (170.32 ± 74.72 (SD) ng/μL) relative to DNA obtained from tissues collected using invasive or destructive techniques (310.95 ± 147.37 (SD) ng/μL. We observed some decrease in yields of DNA from extractions of swab samples conducted 19 and 31 months after initial extractions when samples were stored at room temperature in lysis buffer. All extractions yielded quantities of DNA sufficient to amplify and score all loci, which included fragment data from 10 microsatellite loci (nine polymorphic loci and monomorphic locus EdoμA106), and nucleotide sequence data from a 528 base pair portion of the nuclear octopine dehydrogenase gene. All results from genotyping and sequencing using paired swab and muscle tissue extracts were concordant, and experimental reliability levels for multilocus genotypes generated from swab samples exceeded 97%. This technique is useful for studies in which invasive sampling is not optimal, and in remote field situations since samples can be stored at ambient temperatures for at least 31 months. The use of epithelial swabs is thus a noninvasive technique appropriate for sampling genetic material from live octopuses for use in classical genetic studies as well as supporting experimental and behavioral studies.
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