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A DNA-Based Approach for the Forensic Identification of Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus) in a Traditional Asian Medicine

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Attempts to prevent illegal trade in bile and gallbladders from Asiatic black bears, Ursus thibetanus, are hampered by difficulties associated with identifying such items. We extracted DNA from bile crystals of unknown species origin and generated partial cytochrome b (cyt b) sequences using either universal primers (positioned in conserved regions of cyt b), or primers designed on existing U. thibetanus sequences (UT). Species origin was determined by aligning resolved sequences to reference sequence data. The universal primers were unsuitable for U. thibetanus identification when multiple species templates were present in the samples. The UT primers amplified U. thibetanus DNA from all sample extracts, including those containing mixed species templates. The amplified fragment can distinguish U. thibetanus from the most closely related species, U. americanus, a distinct advantage of DNA sequencing over the methods currently used to analyze suspected U. thibetanus bile.

Keywords: Ursus thibetanus; bear bile; cytochrome b; forensic science; gallbladder; species identification; traditional Chinese medicine

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1556-4029.2008.00857.x

Affiliations: 1: Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, 3rd Floor, Environment Centre Wales, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW, U.K. 2: Wildlife DNA Services, Tepnel Research Products and Services, Appleton Place, Livingston EH54 7EZ, U.K.

Publication date: November 1, 2008

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