Genetic monitoring of threatened European carnivores

By developing SNP marker systems to genetically monitor European carnivores, we provide tools to understand how these elusive species co-exist with humans and recolonize densely populated areas with intensive land-use. In this network project, research at the IZW focused on the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) and the Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos).

Project details
Duration: since 06/2011
Third-party funded: Yes
Involved Department(s): Dept Evolutionary Genetics, Dept Evolutionary Ecology
Leibniz-IZW Project Leader(s): Daniel Förster (Dept Evolutionary Genetics)
Leibniz-IZW Project Team: Deniz Mengüllüoğlu, Jörns Fickel, Anke Schmidt (all: Dept Evolutionary Genetics)
Research Partner(s): Senckenberg Society for Nature Research (SGN) (Gelnhausen, Germany), Technical University of Munich (Germany), University of Potsdam (Germany), University of Freiburg (Germany), Nationalparkverwaltung Bayerischer Wald (Germany), Mammal Research Institute (Białowieza, Poland), Russian Research Institute of Game Management and Fur Farming (Kirov, Russia), University of Zagreb (Croatia), University of Tartu (Estonia), Düzce University (Turkey)
Funding: Leibniz Competition, DAAD, Erasmus+, EASI Genomics, IZW
Research Foci:
Many carnivores were largely or completely extirpated from Central Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, large species such as the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) became extinct by the end of the 19th century, while smaller carnivores such as the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) survived persecution in small relict populations in remote areas. Due to the implementation of legal protection efforts, formerly absent carnivores have started to expand their ranges back into Central Europe since the second half of the last century, often supported by active reintroduction efforts.

All natural or human-mediated reintroduction involves small founder populations, below the long-term minimum viable population size, and often with reduced genetic variability. The recolonization of Central Europe by these carnivores is thus under intensive study by conservationists, ecologists and population geneticists. Concurrently, the source populations of these species outside of Central Europe are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as human persecution. Thus, the future viability of these species in Central European and beyond is uncertain. In order to contribute to efforts to study and protect these species, the IZW joined a scientific network with the aim to:

  • Develop SNP-based genetic marker systems for fast, safe and reproducible genotyping based on non-invasively collected samples from endangered European carnivores (including lynx, otter, bear, wolf, wildcat).
  • Build a database with genotypic information for all relevant populations in Central Europe, as well as potential source populations in neighbouring regions.
  • Determine the genetic status of Central European populations of all chosen model species, and investigate if and to what extent gene flow occurs between these populations and populations of neighbouring regions (i.e. potential source populations).

Selected Publications

Mengüllüoğlu D, Ambarlı H, Barlow A, Paijmans JLA, Sayar AO, Emir H, Kandemir İ, Hofer H, Fickel J, Förster DW (2021): Mitogenome Phylogeny Including Data from Additional Subspecies Provides New Insights into the Historical Biogeography of the Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx. GENES 12, 1216. doi:10.3390/genes12081216

Mengulluoğlu D, Fickel J, Hofer H, Förster DW (2019): Non-invasive faecal sampling reveals spatial organization and improves measures of genetic diversity for the conservation assessment of territorial species: Caucasian lynx as a case species. PLOS ONE 14, e0216549. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216549

Ambarlı H, Mengüllüoğlu D, Fickel J, Förster DW (2018): Population genetics of the main population of brown bears in southwest Asia. PEERJ 6, e5660. doi:10.7717/peerj.5660

Bayerl H, Kraus RHS, Nowak C, Förster DW, Fickel J, Kuehn R (2018): Fast and cost-effective single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) detection in the absence of a reference genome using semideep next generation Random Amplicon Sequencing (RAMseq). MOL ECOL RESOUR 18, 107-117. doi:10.1111/1755-0998.12717

Förster DW, Bull JK, Lenz D, Autenrieth M, Paijmans LAJ, Kraus RHS, Nowak ]C, Bayerl H, Kuehn R, Saveljev AP, Sindičić M, Hofreiter M, Schmidt K, Fickel J (2018): Targeted resequencing of coding DNA sequences for SNP discovery in nonmodel species. MOL ECOL RESOUR 18, 1356–1373. doi:10.1111/1755-0998.12924

Martin EA, Heurich M, Müller J, Bufka L, Bubliy O, Fickel J (2017): Genetic variability and size estimates of the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) population in the Bohemian Forest Ecosystem. MAMM BIOL 86, 42–47. doi: 10.1016/j.mambio.2016.12.001

Bull JK, Heurich M, Saveljev AP, Schmidt K, Fickel J, Förster DW (2016): The effect of reintroductions on the genetic variability in Eurasian lynx populations: The cases of Bohemian–Bavarian and Vosges–Palatinian populations. CONSERV GENET 17, 1229-1234. doi:10.1007/s10592-016-0839-0

Paijmans JLA, Fickel J, Courtiol A, Hofreiter M, Förster DW (2016): Impact of enrichment conditions on cross‐species capture of fresh and degraded DNA. MOL ECOL RESOUR 16, 42-55. doi:10.1111/1755-0998.12420

Kraus RHS, Vonholdt B, Cocchiararo B, Harms V, Bayerl H, Kuhn R, Förster DW, Fickel J, Roos C, Nowak C (2015): A single-nucleotide polymorphism-based approach for rapid and cost-effective genetic wolf monitoring in Europe based on noninvasively collected samples. MOL ECOL RESOUR 15(2), 295–305. doi:10.1111/1755-0998.12307

Kraus RHS, VonHoldt B, Cocchiararo B, Harms V, Bayerl H, Kühn R, Förster DW, Fickel J, Roos C, Nowak C (2015): A single‐nucleotide polymorphism‐based approach for rapid and cost‐effective genetic wolf monitoring in Europe based on noninvasively collected samples. MOL ECOL RESOUR 15, 295-305. doi:10.1111/1755-0998.12307

Stakeholder Publikationen

Heurich M, Magg N, Fickel J, Förster DW, Müller J (2016): Gründe für die Stagnation der Luchspopulation. Forst Praxis 2/16, 19-21.

Fickel J, Förster DW (2016): Langfristige Perspektiven für den Luchs. ÖKOJAGD 3/16. 62-63.

Fickel J, Adelmann W (2016): Die bayerisch-böhmische Population des Luchses benötigt Unterstützung – ANLiegen Natur 38, 40-41.