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Florian Pichlmüller, Christina Straub and Véronique Helfer

Skin swabbing, a minimally invasive DNA sampling method recently developed on adult amphibians, was tested on larvae of fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra). The quality and quantity of the sampled DNA was evaluated by (i) measuring DNA concentration in DNA extracts, (ii) sequencing part of the mtDNA cytochrome b gene (692 bp) and (iii) genotyping eight polymorphic nuclear microsatellite loci. The multiple-tubes approach was used for calculating allelic dropout (ADO) and false allele (FA) rates to evaluate the reliability of the genotypes. DNA extracts from tissue samples of road-killed individuals were included in the study as positive controls. Our results showed that skin swabs of fire salamander larvae can provide DNA in sufficient quantity and quality, as sequencing was successful and no allelic dropouts or false alleles were detected. This method, tested for the first time on amphibian larvae, has proven to be an efficient and reliable alternative to the controversial tail fin clipping procedure.