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2016FallSymposiumURCreativityEngagement has ended
Tuesday, December 6 • 10:55am - 11:15am
Using Molecular Genetics To Distinguish Between Two Congeneric Snake Species From The Western North Carolina Nature Center

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Pine snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus) and gopher snakes (Pituophis catenifer) are in the same genus and are morphologically nearly indistinguishable; at the ND4 mitochondrial locus, these species are 93% identical. The Western North Carolina Nature Center has a phenotypically ambiguous Pituophis snake whose species is unknown. We set out to determine if it was a pine snake, a gopher snake, or a hybrid between the two. Shed snake skins were obtained from the WNC Nature Center specimen, a known pine snake individual, and a known gopher snake individual. DNA was extracted from each of the three sheds in multiple reactions, then purified before being PCR-amplified for the ND4 gene. Next, we performed agarose gel electrophoresis on the PCR products and found clear bands in five of the gopher snake samples, seven of the pine snake samples and nine of the unknown samples. Products with bands were cleaned using a QIAquick PCR purification kit and sequenced, then results were compared using BLAST in GenBank. BLAST analysis revealed 99% identity between the known pine snake and a pine snake sequence from GenBank, 93% identity between the known pine snake and a gopher snake sequence from GenBank, 93% identity between the known pine snake and the unknown snake, and 99% identity between the unknown and a gopher snake sequence from GenBank. Based on this, we can conclude that the WNC Nature Center snake is a not pine snake, but a gopher snake.


Tuesday December 6, 2016 10:55am - 11:15am
038 Karpen Hall