Matthieu Raemy and Sylvain Ursenbacher
Recent studies have demonstrated the potential of combining molecular technologies with environmental sampling to detect various vertebrate species in aquatic ecosystems. The European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) is a threatened and elusive aquatic reptile with shy behaviour. We aimed to develop and evaluate a methodology to detect the presence of this secretive aquatic reptile in ponds from environmental water samples. First, we determined that reptilian DNA can be isolated and amplified from water samples in artificial and natural ponds with known turtle density. Then we compared the potential of two water sampling methods (through filtration or precipitation) and found no significant differences between these approaches. Finally, we demonstrated that the eDNA concentration detected is not correlated with the number of E. orbicularis individuals or biomass. Detection of eDNA was higher in artificial ponds with small volumes of water or in the shallow waters of natural ponds. The eDNA-based methodology aims to detect the presence of specific species, even at low density, with better accuracy than visual observation. However, our study indicates that this method of population monitoring should be applied with caution to aquatic reptiles.
Sylvain Ursenbacher, Philippe Christe and César Metzger
Barbara Meister, Sylvain Ursenbacher and Bruno Baur
Males can enhance their reproductive success through mating with multiple females. For females, however, one mating is usually sufficient to inseminate all of their ova. Females may benefit from multiple mating by producing genetically more diverse offspring, and by having the opportunity to choose sperm of the genetically most compatible male. We used five microsatellite loci to investigate the occurrence and frequency of multiple paternity in 11 clutches of the grass snake (Natrix natrix) in Switzerland. Using a very conservative estimate (program GERUD), two or more fathers were found in 27% of the clutches. However, based on the maximum likelihood estimate (program COLONY), multiple paternity occurred in 91% of the clutches with 2-5 contributing males per female. This is the first investigation demonstrating multiple paternity in a European natricine, with a frequency similar to those found in new world natricines.
Sylvain Dubey, Luca Fumagalli, Sylvain Ursenbacher and Jérôme Pellet
Silvia Geser, Laura Kaiser, Valérie Zwahlen and Sylvain Ursenbacher
The Asp viper (Vipera aspis) is a highly endangered species in the Swiss Plateau and in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland. In the past, numerous populations disappeared due to human activities, but currently the trend is reversed and several locations seem favourable for this species. However, it is not known if the remaining populations are still genetically variable and viable. In this study, 12 new microsatellite loci markers were developed for Vipera aspis using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) techniques (454 sequencing). All markers proved to be polymorphic with 2-9 alleles. When cross-tested with two Eurasian widespread viper species, 8 of the newly developed loci provided reliable amplification for V. berus and 3 loci for V. ammodytes.
Bayram Göçmen, Konrad Mebert, Mert Karış, Mehmet Anıl Oğuz and Sylvain Ursenbacher
We report on a new population of Vipera anatolica from the Geyik Mountain Range in eastern Antalya Province, Turkey. It represents only the second known location, and is situated in a valley about 200 km east from the terra typica at Kohu Dağ in western Antalya Province. We compare both populations and, based on marked differences in morphology, habitat, genetics, and its geographically isolated location, we describe the recently discovered population as a new subspecies. Aspects of ecology, threats, and conservation needs are discussed.