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ABOUT THE STUDY

Main applicant/Principal Investigator: Dr Sílvia Pérez-Espona (Anglia Ruskin University)
Collaborators: Dr Javier Pérez-Barbería (The James Hutton Institute)

This study aims to assess genetic diversity in the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) in forest and open hill populations of Scottish red deer (Cervus elaphus). The proposed project consisted on genotyping the MHC class II DRB3 exon 2 a total of 48 individuals from two forest (Tarlogie, Inshriach) and two open hill (Strathconon, Abernethy) Scottish red deer populations; 12 individuals from each population (6 stags, 6 hinds). For each individual a total of 48 clones, resulting from the amplification and cloning of the MHC class II DRB3 exon 2, were to be sequenced. This experiment would result in a total of 2,304 MHC sequences (48 sequences per individual) that will allow establishing the minimum number of clones per individual that need to be screened to capture the complete MHC allelic diversity in an individual red deer.

Progress:

Laboratory analysis

The project is progressing satisfactorily with the 24 red deer stags sampled from the four selected populations already analysed (MHC class II DRB3 amplified, cloned and sequenced). For the 24 red deer hinds, the MHC class II DRB3 has already been amplified, all PCR products cloned and currently preparing the samples to be sequenced. The completion of the sequencing is expected to be by the end of February/beginning of March 2015.


Preliminary results

Results from the sequencing of the 24 red deer stags has revealed that genetic diversity at the MHC is high, with the highest number of alleles ever discovered in an ungulate (some individuals presented > 30 alleles). This reflects the importance of conducting thorough analyses, such as the one conducted here, if we are to accurately assess genetic diversity at the MHC. Genetic diversity was high in both forest and open hill populations. Although more detailed data analyses need to be conducted when the hind data is available, the data indicates that some set of alleles are habitat-specific (i.e. only found in either forest or open hill).

Plan of action for year 2

Finalise the sequencing of MHC alleles of 24 red deer hinds (end of February/March 2015).

Data analyses of MHC data (April 2015).
Publication of MHC data (summer 2015).
Article in Deer Magazine (autumn 2015)

FURTHER READING

Steer clear of baby deer by Charlie Newman

Steer Clear of Baby Deer!

A joint campaign is underway to inform members of the public about the need to give both pregnant or nursing deer and their young plenty of space when out enjoying the countryside.

Over the coming weeks, from mid-May to July, people may discover newly-born deer hidden in the grass or undergrowth and might mistakenly assume that they have been abandoned Please do not touch, disturb or move them as usually their mothers will not be far away.

Be Tick Aware

Be Tick Aware!

The risk of acquiring a tick bite increases during springtime, with peak times from April to June, meaning there is no better time to refresh your precautions and help spread the word on being tick aware.

The following guidance from the UK HAS can be used to reduce the chance of acquiring a tick bite.

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