Genetic Forensics of Pet Dragons
Research by former KU EEB/BI student Cameron Siler (now an Assistant Professor at University of Oklahoma), current student Andres Lira, and Rafe Brown recently has been covered in depth in a Science Magazine article “Genetic forensics wakes a dragon." In this study, Brown, Siler and Filipino colleagues Arvin Diesmos and Emerson Sy (National Museum of the Philippines) collected genetic samples from animals in the illegal pet market trade of a major metropolitan area (Manila) and compared traders reported origins of the species to the genotypic match of these samples from animals collected in the wild from throughout the Philippines. The authors found that virtually all of Manila’s poached animals came from a particular area (The Bicol Peninsula) where a genetically distinct lineage occurs with almost no protected area coverage. Collaborations With KU’s Andres Lira modeled the species habitat suitability and demonstrated that very little of available habitat overlaps with protected areas, demonstrating a new conservation urgency, identified with an integrative combination of forensic science, ecological niche modeling, and covert black market surveys in the back alleys of Manila. This work comes on the heels of an earlier study by former KU student Luke Welton in which trade forensics of Monitor Lizards revealed that, when asked, traders misrepresent the origins of their animals more than 50% of the time, presumably in an effort to increase the perceived value of their illegal wares. Both articles can be located at: http://www.nhm.ku.edu/rbrown/PublicationsMain.htm.