Of the 18 samples taken, we have only had partial results for 11 of them so far. The plan is to analyse these to a high level using microsatellite markers to look at relatedness between individuals. This should tell us how closely related the squirrels are across the focal site, and give us clues into the level of real world habitat connectivity, and enable us to improve our guess of the population size.
Before extracting the DNA to the level required for microsatellite analysis, members of the Biosciences department at Swansea university conducted haplotype analysis. This looks at the mitochondrial haplotype in the samples. Mitochondrial haplotype is passed down the female line, and can provide useful information on the genetic make-up and ancestry of a population of a particular species. This type of DNA work has been done on a few previous occasions in the mid-Wales red squirrel focal site.
Previously, five haplotypes had been discovered in mid-Wales, and of these two have only been found in mid-Wales, and mid-Wales is also the first time the other three haplotypes had been recorded within a single locality.
The 11 samples currently analysed have included 7 individuals with the WC3 haplotype, which has also been recorded elsewhere in Wales, and four have haplotypes only found in mid-Wales. This is important as it shows we still have a reasonable level of genetic diversity, as well as maintaining a local specificity.