Hybridization between wild species and their domestic congeners often threatens the gene pool of the wild species. The last wild Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus) populations in Mongolia and China are examples of populations facing such a hybridization threat. To address this key issue in the conservation of wild camels, we analysed wild, hybrid and domestic Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus) originating from Mongolia, China and Austria. Through screening of an 804-base-pair mitochondrial fragment, we identified eight mitochondrial haplotypes and found high sequence divergence (1.9%) between C. ferus and C. bactrianus. On the basis of a mitochondrial DNA sequence fixed difference, we developed a diagnostic PCR restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) assay to differentiate between wild and domestic camel samples. We applied the assay to 81 individuals and confirmed the origin of all samples including five hybrids with known maternal ancestry. The PCR-RFLP system was effective for both traditional (blood, skin) and non-invasive samples (faeces, hair), as well as for museum specimens. Our results demonstrate high levels of mitochondrial differentiation between wild and domestic Bactrian camels and that maternal hybridization can be detected by a rapid and reliable PCR-RFLP system.
Animals Camels/genetics* Female Hybridization, Genetic Male Mitochondria/genetics* Polymerase Chain Reaction Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length