Nondestructive molecular sex determination of free-ranging star-nosed moles (Condylura cristata)

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Price, Nadine
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Molecular techniques, particularly noninvasive genetic sampling (NGS) and nondestructive sampling (NDS), are increasingly being used as tools to study the ecology of free-ranging mammals. A specific application of these methods is the molecular sexing of species for which external sex differentiation is challenging. Star-nosed moles (Condylura cristata) are a little-studied species in which females possess a peniform clitoris making them externally indistinguishable from males. To my knowledge, no studies have employed NDS to study any aspect of their ecology. I therefore sequenced fragments of one X-chromosome (Zfx) and two Y-chromosome (Sry and Zfy) genes from known-sex specimens, and designed species-specific primers to co-amplify these loci from hair, claw and fecal samples of 16 star-nosed moles. I found all tissue types were highly (90-100%) reliable for sex determination. I envision that this NDS method will facilitate future capture-and-release studies on the natural history and social structure of this fascinating, semi-aquatic mammal.
star-nosed mole, Condylura cristata, nondestructive, noninvasive, molecular sex determination, Talpidae, Sry, Zfx, Zfy, moles