Short Communication

Non-invasive sex identification of the white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) through genetic analysis of feathers

Published: October 13, 2011
Genet. Mol. Res. 10 (4) : 2505-2510 DOI: 10.4238/2011.October.13.7

Abstract

The white-bellied sea eagle, Haliaeetus leucogaster, displays reversed sexual size dimorphism and is monomorphic for adult plumage coloration. Early attempts to identify sex in sexually monomorphic birds were based on morphological or chromosomal characters, but since avian W-specific DNA sequences were identified, PCR amplification has become commonly used for molecular sexing. We used a PCR test employing primers that amplify two homologous fragments of both the CHD-W gene, unique to females, and the CHD-Z gene, occurring in both sexes. This test was applied to five individuals of H. leucogaster from the Malacca Zoo and to male and female domestic chickens, Gallus domesticus, for comparison. All individuals were sexed successfully with high reproducibility. We conclude that this PCR-based test with feathers as the DNA source is a reliable sexing method for H. leucogaster. This sexing technique is objective and non-invasive and could be used to test sex ratio theories, as well as to help improve conservation and management actions for captive breeding program of this species in Malaysia.

The white-bellied sea eagle, Haliaeetus leucogaster, displays reversed sexual size dimorphism and is monomorphic for adult plumage coloration. Early attempts to identify sex in sexually monomorphic birds were based on morphological or chromosomal characters, but since avian W-specific DNA sequences were identified, PCR amplification has become commonly used for molecular sexing. We used a PCR test employing primers that amplify two homologous fragments of both the CHD-W gene, unique to females, and the CHD-Z gene, occurring in both sexes. This test was applied to five individuals of H. leucogaster from the Malacca Zoo and to male and female domestic chickens, Gallus domesticus, for comparison. All individuals were sexed successfully with high reproducibility. We conclude that this PCR-based test with feathers as the DNA source is a reliable sexing method for H. leucogaster. This sexing technique is objective and non-invasive and could be used to test sex ratio theories, as well as to help improve conservation and management actions for captive breeding program of this species in Malaysia.