Genetic Variation in Captive Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus): Parentage Determination and Individual Identification

E. V. Fowler,1,5 B. A. Houlden,2,3 W. B. Sherwin,3 P. Hoeben,1,4 and P. Timms1


Highly repeatable randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers were developed for parentage studies in the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Of the 25 RAPD primers screened, 5 (20.0%) produced 32 repeatable polymorphic RAPD bands (average/primer = 6.4 ± 4.2). A high level of polymorphism was observed for each group of koalas (Featherdale, 71.9%; Lone Pine, 84.4%). All 25 koalas could be uniquely identified using either RAPD or microsatellite markers. Of the 32 RAPD markers generated in koalas, 25 were informative for parentage analyses. These RAPD markers successfully determined both parents to three offspring and a male parent to a fourth offspring. Paternity analysis (where the female parent is known) succeeded in assigning the correct male parent to seven offspring. Our RAPD-PCR method generates informative genetic markers that are useful for parentage determination and individual identification of captive koalas. This would provide genetic analysis to zoos and wildlife parks as a low-cost alternative to the more expensive microsatellite markers.