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DNA technology and its applications in herpetological research and forensic investigations involving reptiles and amphibians

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DNA-based technologies, in particular those involved with the identification and screening of DNA polymorphisms, have become a major analytical tool for forensic investigators. These technologies were originally designed for crime scene evaluation and analysis and, more specifically, to the identification of individuals linked to crime scenes. However, the same technologies have subsequently been used identify polymorphisms capable of discrimination at the individual or species level in a wide range of vertebrates. These polymorphic markers are relevant to a range of research and investigative applications in reptiles and amphibians including population and conservation studies, phylogenetics and forensic analysis. Initially cost-prohibitive, DNA technology is now within the budget of many non-specialised laboratories and field centres. The advent of PCR-based methodologies has allowed the purification and subsequent profiling of DNA from an impressive array of biological materials, including limited amounts of partially degraded field or forensic samples. In this respect, non-invasive sampling of endangered species in the field is of particular interest. Polymorphisms occurring within regions of the mitochondrial genomes of vertebrates are currently being screened for species-specific identification purposes. Databases are under construction that will allow rapid comparison of matching regions of the genomes of many thousands of animal species — with obvious applications in forensic investigations.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, School of Applied and Health Sciences, The University of Chester, Chester CH1 4BJ, United Kingdom;, Email:


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