19.04.2014 - 11:48
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Molecular Genetics Laboratory

A genetics laboratory is an integral part of the Primatology department, providing the facilities for genetic investigations of wild primate populations. Genetic data can be combined with information on behavior, group structure or range, or geographic distribution to yield insights into the evolution of the living primates. Genetic analysis can be done at various levels, and the methods used vary depending upon the questions of interest. Some of the questions we are currently interested in answering using genetic approaches are:

  • Kinship and social behavior
    Do kin relationships affect how individuals interact with one another? Are maternal or paternal kin preferred?

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  • Paternity and behavior
    In group-living primates, which individuals father the offspring? How does lifetime reproductive success vary among individuals, between sexes, and among species?

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  • Dispersal and landscape genetics
    Do discontinuous habitats hinder dispersal among population fragments? In continuous habitats, does the environment play any role in structuring dispersal movements?

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  • Evolutionary histories of primate populations
    When did different populations of widespread primates, such as eastern and western gorillas, become separate and was this a gradual or sudden process?

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  • Censusing and tracking
    How many individuals occupy a given area, and how are they distributed into groups?

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  • Genetic analysis of noninvasive samples
    How should noninvasive samples be preserved, and how can one avoid errors arising from the use of the low concentration DNAs derived from such samples? How can genotyping be made more efficient?

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Technical aspects include

Use of noninvasively-collected samples (feces, shed hairs) as sources of DNA for genetic analysis.

         

Approaches commonly used are

  1. Examination of sequence variation in the first hypervariable region of the control region of the maternally-inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) molecule
  2. Construction of individually distinctive high-resolution genotypes at multiple loci in the nuclear genome using microsatellite markers
  3. Analysis of sequence variation at nuclear loci by either direct sequencing, or by sequencing of cloned PCR products.

Equipment and facilities available include

  • equipemt and facilitiesABI 3100 Genetic Analyzer for high-throughput microsatellite analysis
  • ABI 310 Genetic Analyzers for microsatellite analysis
  • ABI 3730 DNA Analyzer for high-throughput sequencing
  • ABI 7700 Sequence Detection System for quantitative PCR
  • Numerous PCR machines, with gradient capability
  • Laminar flow hood, to reduce risk of contamination to low endogenous DNA content samples
  • Separate dedicated room for DNA extraction from noninvasive samples
  • Separate dedicated room for PCR set-up
  • Separate dedicated room for work with museum specimens