Identifying sloth species at a genetic level

Jan 03, 2012

Identifying species, separating out closely related species and managing each type on its own, is an important part of any animal management system. Some species, like the two types of two-toed sloth, are so close in appearance and behavior that differentiation can be challenging. Conservation researchers at San Diego Zoo Global's Institute of Conservation Research have developed a mechanism for identifying these reclusive species from each other.

"Species identification of two-toed sloths has always been problematic in the wild and captivity due to their large overlap in external morphology. " said Oliver Ryder Ph.D., Director of Genetics for Global's Institute of Conservation Research. "Through this effort we have described a low-cost easy-to-use molecular tool for species identification that will help to improve management of two-toed sloth species so that we can ensure that they are properly represented on the ark of rare and endangered species."

The study, published in the December 2011 issue of Zoo Biology, describes a PCR-based technique that allows of two-toed sloths without requiring sequencing, by using a mitochondrial marker (COI gene) and assay. It also reports intra- and inter-specific patterns of chromosome variation in two-toed sloths. The chromosome number in Hoffman's two-toed sloths showed low variation ranging only between 50 and 51. In contrast, Linnaeus's two-toed sloths appeared to vary widely, with diploid numbers ranging from 53 to 67, suggesting distinct geographic groups.

Explore further: Alternate mechanism of species formation picks up support, thanks to a South American ant

Provided by Zoological Society of San Diego

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sloth movement secrets revealed

Sep 10, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- New studies of the movements of sloths have revealed more information about how they move around in the trees, traveling upside down.

Project uses mummy DNA to differentiate croc species

Dec 19, 2011

The Nile crocodile is a species that was identified by ancient Egyptians. Genetic analysis done by a group of geneticists using samples taken from species throughout the animal's range and including DNA from mummified crocodile ...

Recommended for you

Orb-weaving spiders living in urban areas may be larger

Aug 20, 2014

A common orb-weaving spider may grow larger and have an increased ability to reproduce when living in urban areas, according to a study published August 20, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Eli ...

User comments : 0