|Genetic tagging: contemporary molecular ecology|In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. Academic Press: London; New York. ISSN 0024-4066, more
microsatellite; individual identification; parent-offspring detection;population genetics; Cetaceae
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Population generic analyses have been highly successful in deciphering inter- and intraspecific evolutionary relationships, levels of gene flow, genetic divergence and effective population sizes. Parameters estimated by traditional population genetic analyses are evolutionary averages and thus not necessarily relevant for contemporary ecological or conservation issues. Molecular data can, however, also provide insight into contemporary patterns of divergence, population size and gene flow when a sufficient number of variable loci are analysed to focus subsequent data analyses on individuals rather than populations. Genetic tagging of individuals is an example of such individual-based approaches and recent studies have shown it to be a viable alternative to traditional ragging methods. Owing to the ubiquitous presence of hyper-variable DNA sequences in eukaryote genomes it is in principle possible to tag any eukaryote species and the required DNA can be obtained indirectly from substrates such as faeces, sloughed skin and hair. The purpose of this paper is to present the concept of genetic tagging and to further advocate the extension of individual-based generic analyses beyond the Identification of individuals to other kinds of relationships, such as parent-offspring relations, which more fully exploit the genetic nature of the data.