Ornithologists from AltSU use genotyping to identify the uniqueness of each individual of the Saker Falcon

6 December 2021 Department of Information and Media Communications
Scientists from Altai State University are implementing a project called "DNA-based sexual dimorphism identification in chicks during early postnatal ontogenesis and creating a genotypic cadastre of representatives of the Altai population of the Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) in Altai-Falcon Rare Bird Nursery,” which has the main goal of increasing the number of Saker Falcons in Altai Krai.

One of the main tasks of the Altai-Falcon laboratory of Altai State University, which since 2020 has become part of the Institute of Biology and Biotechnology, organized at the Zoological Center, is scientific activity, where students and postgraduates of the flagship university of Altai Krai hone their practical skills, helping scientists in breeding and study of the Red Book birds, mainly Saker Falcons, which are rarely found in the wild nature of the region today. In particular, this year on the territory of the region, ornithologists found only two nests of Saker Falcons. This is due to the fact that the bird is attractive for poachers to sale to the countries of the Middle East, where falconry is still popular among wealthy people. Other reasons are death on power lines and lack of food supply (Saker Falcons feed mainly on ground squirrels, which are now also listed in the Red Book of Altai Krai).

Therefore, the reintroduction of birds into the wild is the fundamental goal of Altai-Falcon. So, in the spring of 2021, 10 birds were released that were bred in the nursery, on the territory of the Saylyugemsky National Park (Altai Republic), in the Kornilovsky nature reserve of the Kamensky district of Altai Krai and in the Altai Foothills nature park in Smolensky District.

Another direction of work of the Altai-Falcon nursery for rare birds is formulated in the above-mentioned project. According to its scientific advisor - Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor Sergei Snigirev, Director of the Zoological Center of the Institute of Biology and Biotechnology of Altai State University, the team of researchers, which includes employees of the Laboratory of Bioengineering of Altai State University, created together with the Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine RAS, has the task to form a genotypic inventory of the Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) livestock kept in Altai-Falcon Rare Birds Nursery, and to carry out early-age gender identification of chicks.

“Sex identification of Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) chicks by molecular genetic methods will provide a competitive advantage in the market for the sale of young birds, due to the reduction of the time required for issuing a CITES permit - the Convention for the Control of Trade in Rare and Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna by 1.5-2 months. And genotyping will help to exclude from the plan of selection and breeding work interspecific hybrids of the Falconidae (F1-F4) family, which are prohibited for reintroduction,” explained S. Snigirev.

While implementing the project, scientists from AltSU plan to strengthen scientific and technical cooperation with the All-Russian Research Institute "Ecology" (genetics sector), the Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine SB RAS and the regional branch of Rosprirodnadzor.

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