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Including the invisible fraction in whole population studies: A guide to the genetic sampling of unhatched bird eggs

Morland, F; Patel, S; Santure, AW; Brekke, P; Hemmings, N; (2024) Including the invisible fraction in whole population studies: A guide to the genetic sampling of unhatched bird eggs. Methods in Ecology and Evolution , 15 (1) pp. 80-90. 10.1111/2041-210X.14242. Green open access

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Abstract

Early embryo mortality has recently been proven to be a significant component of avian reproductive failure. Due to the difficulty in distinguishing eggs, which have suffered early embryo mortality from unfertilised eggs, this cause of reproductive failure has historically been underestimated and overlooked. We describe methods for recognising and collecting early failed, unhatched eggs from wild bird populations, identifying and isolating embryonic material in unhatched eggs, and efficiently extracting DNA from those samples. We test these methods on unhatched hihi (Notiomystis cincta) eggs collected from the field, which have undergone postmortem incubation. We obtained DNA yields from early-stage embryos that are sufficient for a wide range of molecular techniques, including microsatellite genotyping for parentage analysis and sex-typing. The type of tissue sample taken from the egg affected downstream DNA yields and microsatellite amplification rates. Species-specific microsatellite markers had higher amplification success rates than cross-species markers. We make key recommendations for each stage of the sampling and extraction process and suggest potential protocol improvements and modifications. Genetic and possibly genomic analysis of embryos that die early in development has the potential to advance many fields. The methods described here will allow a more in-depth exploration of the previously overlooked causes of early embryo mortality in wild populations of birds, including threatened species.

Type: Article
Title: Including the invisible fraction in whole population studies: A guide to the genetic sampling of unhatched bird eggs
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.14242
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/2041-210x.14242
Language: English
Additional information: © 2023 The Authors. Methods in Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Keywords: DNA, embryo mortality, hatching failure, invisible fraction, microsatellites, paternity, population genetics
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10186423
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