Prey remains can provide valuable sources of information regarding causes of predation and the species composition of a predator's diet. Unfortunately, the highly degraded state of many prey samples from gastrointestinal tracts often precludes unambiguous identification. We describe a procedure by which PCR amplification of taxonomically informative microsatellite loci were used to identify species of waterfowl predated by glaucous gulls (Larus hyperboreus). We found that one microsatellite locus unambiguously distinguished between species of the subfamily Anserinae (whistling ducks, geese and swans) and those of the subfamily Anatidae (all other ducks). An additional locus distinguished the remains of all geese and swan species known to nest on the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta in western Alaska. The study focused on two waterfowl species which have experienced precipitous declines in population numbers: emperor geese (Chen canagica) and spectacled eiders (Somateria fischeri). No evidence of predation on spectacled eiders was observed. Twenty-six percent of all glaucous gull stomachs examined contained the remains of juvenile emperor geese.
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Microsatellites identify depredated waterfowl remains from glaucous gull stomachs