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Mwale M.,National Zoological Gardens of South Africa NZG | Dalton D.L.,National Zoological Gardens of South Africa NZG | Dalton D.L.,University of the Free State | Jansen R.,Tshwane University of Technology | And 8 more authors.
Genome | Year: 2017

The escalating growth in illegal wildlife trade and anthropogenic habitat changes threaten the survival of pangolin species worldwide. All eight extant species have experienced drastic population size reductions globally with a high extinction risk in Asia. Consequently, forensic services have become critical for law enforcement, with a need for standardised and validated genetic methods for reliable identifications. The seizure of three tonnes of pangolin scales, believed to have originated from Africa, by Hong Kong Customs Authorities provided an opportunity for the application of DNA barcoding in identifying scales. Three mitochondrial DNA gene regions (COI, Cyt b, and D-loop) were amplified for a subsample of the confiscated material and compared with taxonomically verified references. All four African species were recovered as monophyletic with high interspecific uncorrected p-distance estimates (0.048-0.188) among genes. However, only three of four African species (Phataginus tricuspis, Phataginus tetradactyla, and Smutsia gigantea, originating from West and Central Africa) and one of four Asian species (Manis javanica from Southeast Asia) were identified among scales. Although the assignment of unknown scales to specific species was reliable, additional genetic tools and representative reference material are required to determine geographic origins of confiscated pangolin specimens. © 2017 Published by NRC Research Press.

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