Sexing birds using random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers

C.M. Lessells, A.C. Mateman

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    We used random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers to sex birds from small tissue (usually blood) samples. Arbitrarily chosen 10-mer PCR primers were screened with DNA from known-sex individuals for the production of a bright female-specific band. Suitable primers were found for seven bird species after screening about 30 primers (range 2-63), and no primer was found for three other species after screening about 50 primers for each species. Investigations into the reliability of RAPD markers for sexing great tits Parus major and oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus show that: (i) when PCR reaction conditions for great tit DNA are varied, either the presence of the female-specific band correctly predicts the individual's sex or no DNA amplification occurs; (ii) the female-specific band in great tits can be sequenced,and subsequently amplified using specific PCR primers; (iii) null alleles of the female- specific fragment occur at an estimated frequency of 0% (n = 241 females) in great tits and 0.6% (n > 290 females) in oystercatchers; (iv) the female-specific fragment in great tits occurs in individuals from a wide geographical range encompassing two subspecies; and (v) the relative intensity of bands in great tit RAPD banding profiles is consistent across individual birds and scorers. The RAPD primers that we have identified are generally species specific, and the consequent time cost of screening for primers is the chief disadvantage of using RAPD markers to sex birds. However, with large sample sizes this disadvantage is outweighed by the relative technical simplicity and low cost of the technique. [KEYWORDS: birds; DNA isolation; null alleles; PCR; RAPD markers; sex determination Arbitrary primers; genetic-markers; w-chromosome; identification; pcr; ratios]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)187-195
    JournalMolecular Ecology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


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