The reintroduction of the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) into the Netherlands: hidden life revealed by noninvasive genetic monitoring

H.P. Koelewijn, M. Pérez-Haro, H.A.H. Jansman, M.C. Boerwinkel, J. Bovenschen, D.R. Lammertsma, F.J.J. Niewold, A.T. Kuiters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The last recorded presence of the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) in the Netherlands dates from 1989 and concerned a dead individual. In 2002 a reintroduction programme was started, and between June 2002 and April 2008 a total of 30 individuals (10 males and 20 females) were released into a lowland peat marsh in the north of the Netherlands. Noninvasive genetic monitoring based on the genetic profiles obtained from DNA extracted from otter faeces (spraints) was chosen for the post-release monitoring of the population. To this end, the founding individuals were genotyped before release and spraints were collected in the release area each winter from 2002 to 2008. From June 2002 to April 2008 we analysed the genetic profile of 1,265 spraints on the basis of 7–15 microsatellite loci, 582 of which (46%) were successfully assigned to either released or newly identified genotypes. We identified 54 offspring (23 females and 31 males): the females started to reproduce after 2 years and the males after 4 years. The mating and reproductive success among males was strongly skewed, with a few dominant males fathering two-thirds of the offspring, but the females had a more even distribution. The effective population size (Ne) was only about 30% of the observed density (N), mainly because of the large variance in reproductive success among males. Most juvenile males dispersed to surrounding areas on maturity, whereas juvenile females stayed inside the area next to the mother’s territory. The main cause of mortality was traffic accidents. Males had a higher mortality rate (22 out of 41 males (54%) vs. 9 out of 43 females (21%)). During winter 2007/08 we identified 47 individuals, 41 of which originated from mating within the release area. This study demonstrates that noninvasive molecular methods can be used efficiently in post-release monitoring studies of elusive species to reveal a comprehensive picture of the state of the population
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-614
Number of pages14
JournalConservation Genetics
Volume11
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • natural-populations
  • individual identification
  • conservation genetics
  • spatial-organization
  • microsatellite loci
  • genotyping feces
  • eastern germany
  • dna
  • size
  • biology

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