Dr. Selma Mautner

RFLP analysis of the mitochondrial DNA of otters (Lutra lutra) from Europe - implications for conservation of a flagship species

Abstract
The distribution of otters (Lutra lutra) in Europe is largely fragmented, mainly due to historic anthropogenic causes. Nevertheless, in eastern Germany a large coherent area is inhabited by a viable otter population.

In this paper, the mitochondrial genome of 81 otters is studied by RFLP analysis of PCR-amplified 1.5 and 2.5 kb long fragments, particularly toestimate the amount of genetic variability of European otters, and to identify possible geographical population subsets for conservation management.

No restriction site polymorphism was detected within the control region (1.5 kb), but polymorphism ofcleaving sites in the 2.5 kb fragment could be assigned to three haplotypes. Two occurred exclusively in a comparatively small area northwest and west of Berlin, which may be considered a region of increased genetic variability in otters.

The low level of mtDNAvariability in European otters might be due to genetic drift in postglacial founder populations with long-term low densities, and continuous historical overhunting.

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