Site update

Since I have been really terrible at updating the blog (but pretty good at keeping up with the facebook blog posts) I've added the widget below so that facebook cross posts to the blog.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

shameless self promotion - PLoS ONE: Non-Invasive Genetic Monitoring of Wild Central Chimpanzees

Our new paper came out today in PLosONE (so its open access :)
Arandjelovic M, Head J, Rabanal LI, Schubert G, Mettke E, Boesch C, Robbins M, Vigilant L (2011) Non-Invasive Genetic Monitoring of Wild Central Chimpanzees. PLoS ONE 6(3): e14761. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014761

An assessment of population size and structure is an important first step in devising conservation and management plans for endangered species. Many threatened animals are elusive, rare and live in habitats that prohibit directly counting individuals. For example, a well-founded estimate of the number of great apes currently living in the wild is lacking. Developing methods to obtain accurate population estimates for these species is a priority for their conservation management. Genotyping non-invasively collected faecal samples is an effective way of evaluating a species' population size without disruption, and can also reveal details concerning population structure.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We opportunistically collected wild chimpanzee faecal samples for genetic capture-recapture analyses over a four-year period in a 132 km2 area of Loango National Park, Gabon. Of the 444 samples, 46% yielded sufficient quantities of DNA for genotyping analysis and the consequent identification of 121 individuals. Using genetic capture-recapture, we estimate that 283 chimpanzees (range: 208–316) inhabited the research area between February 2005 and July 2008. Since chimpanzee males are patrilocal and territorial, we genotyped samples from males using variable Y-chromosome microsatellite markers and could infer that seven chimpanzee groups are present in the area. Genetic information, in combination with field data, also suggested the occurrence of repeated cases of intergroup violence and a probable group extinction.


The poor amplification success rate resulted in a limited number of recaptures and hence only moderate precision (38%, measured as the entire width of the 95% confidence interval), but this was still similar to the best results obtained using intensive nest count surveys of apes (40% to 63%). Genetic capture-recapture methods applied to apes can provide a considerable amount of novel information on chimpanzee population size and structure with minimal disturbance to the animals and represent a powerful complement to traditional field-based methods.

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