The Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change
is a research museum of the Leibniz Association
Link to Leibniz Association
Wildlife crime generates 100 to 260 billion dollars yearly. To a high degree, protected animals are being traded illegally – in Europe often to be kept as extravagant pets. The resulting damage to biodiversity is huge. In order to effectively combat illegal trade with protected species, the authorities lack routinely applicable analytical tools. The BMBF-funded project FOGS, Forensic Genetics for Species Protection develops such tools, to provide information on origin and ancestry of analyzed animals. E.g., FOGS tools will allow scrutinizing breeding programs, to ascertain whether an individual has been legally bred or has been illegally collected in the wild. Or they will make it possible to detect hybrid breeding in protected species.
The DNA-based tools developed through FOGS are based on SNPSTR markers. I.e., they combine microsatellites (short tandem-repeated DNA motives) with SNPs, punctual mutation patterns in the animals' genomes. The coupled analysis of these two molecular markers offers a high amount of very granular genetic information and enables a precise differentiation of populations. However, the markers have to be developed individually for each species. Therefore, FOGS will be limited at first to highly prioritized – mostly European – vertebrate species. Once the technology is developed for these species, rapid test kits will facilitate their application. Lab service providers will be able to routinely answer questions on kinship, hybrid status, or geographic origin to authorities, researchers, or breeders.