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Data from: Development and validation of rapid environmental DNA (eDNA) detection methods for bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii)

Cite this dataset

Kirtane, Anish; Wilder, Maxwell; Green, Hyatt (2019). Data from: Development and validation of rapid environmental DNA (eDNA) detection methods for bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) [Dataset]. Dryad.


Bog turtles  Glyptemys muhlenbergii are listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) for wildlife action plans in every state it occurs and multi-state efforts are underway to better characterize extant populations and prioritize restoration efforts. However, traditional sampling methods can be ineffective due to the turtle’s wetland habitat, small size, and burrowing nature. Molecular methods, such as qPCR, provide the ability to overcome this challenge by effectively quantifying minute amounts of turtle DNA left behind in its environment (eDNA). Developing such methods for bog turtles has proved difficult partly because of the high sequence similarity between bog turtles and closely-related, cohabitating species, most often wood turtles ( Glyptemys insculpta ). Additionally, substrates containing bog turtle eDNA are often rich in organics or other substances that frequently inhibit both DNA extraction and qPCR amplification. Here, we describe the development and validation of a qPCR assay, BT3, targeting the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene that correctly identifies bog turtles with 100% specificity and sensitivity when tested on 201 blood samples collected from six species over a wide geographic range. We also developed a full-process internal control employing a genetically modified strain of  Caenorhabditis elegans  to improve DNA extraction methods, limit false negative results due to qPCR inhibition, and measure total DNA recovery from each sample. Using the internal control, we found that DNA recovery varied by over an order of magnitude between samples and likely explains the lack of bog turtle detection in some cases. Methods presented herein are highly-specific and may offer a more cost effective, non-invasive tool to supplement bog turtle population assessments in the eastern United States. Poor or differential DNA recovery, which remains unmeasured in the vast majority of eDNA studies, significantly reduced the ability to detect bog turtle in their natural environment.

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