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Sex identification of polar bears from blood and tissue samples

January 1, 1993

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) can be adversely affected by hunting and other human perturbations because of low population densities and low reproduction rates. The sustainable take of adult females may be as low as 1.5% of the population. Females and accompanying young are most vulnerable to hunting, and hunters have not consistently reported the sex composition of the harvest, therefore a method to confirm the sexes of polar bears harvested in Alaska is needed. Evidence of the sex of harvested animals is often not available, but blood or other tissue samples often are. We extracted DNA from tissue and blood samples, and amplified segments of zinc finger (ZFX and ZFY) genes from both X and Y chromosomes with the polymerase chain reaction. Digestion of amplified portions of the X chromosome with the restriction enzyme HaeIII resulted in subdivision of the original amplified segment into four smaller fragments. Digestion with HaeIII did not subdivide the original segment amplified from the Y chromosome. The differing fragment sizes produced patterns in gel electrophoresis that distinguished samples from male and female bears 100% of the time. This technique is applicable to the investigation of many wildlife management and research questions.

Publication Year 1993
Title Sex identification of polar bears from blood and tissue samples
DOI 10.1139/z93-305
Authors Steven C. Amstrup, G.W. Garner, M. A. Cronin, J.C. Patton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Canadian Journal of Zoology
Index ID 70181818
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center