Genetic Research

During three survey periods a targeted trapping programme under licence resulted in a number of red squirrels being trapped.  DNA analysis revealed five different mitochondrial DNA haplotypes within the mid Wales population.

A haplotype is a genetic marker that can provide useful information on the genetic make-up and ancestry of a population of a particular species

From the mid Wales red squirrel population three of the five haplotypes had been previously recorded in Wales, however this was the first time their presence had been recorded within a single locality.

Three of the haplotypes appear to be unique to the mid Wales population.  In 2013,  a new haplotype was identified in the mid Wales population in a study carried out by the MISE project.

This haplotype is thought to have derived from British translocations in the past, given that it was found in a British museum specimen.  It is currently the most common haplotype in red squirrels in Ireland, however it had not previously been recorded in any surviving red squirrel population in Britain.

The results of genetic analysis have revealed that the red squirrel population in mid Wales has large genetic variation.  This has implications for both the conservation of the local population and the conservation of red squirrels in Wales as a whole.  If there is a large genetic variation within a population conservation attempts are more likely to prove successful.

Red Squirrel in cone

Red Squirrel in handling cone by Anna Hobbs

Fitting radio collar to red squirrel in mid Wales

Huw Denman & Don MacPherson fitting radio collar in mid Wales