DNA sexing in Humboldt Penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) from feather samples.
Humboldt Penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) show little sexual dimorphism, and although males are usually heavier and larger than females, sexing by direct observation may be difficult, especially in young subjects. In this paper we evaluate the utility of the molecular approach, for sexing impuberal Humboldt Penguins from feathers. Firstly, a PCR test was used employing primers that amplify the homologous region of the CHD-W gene, unique in female, and the CHD-Z gene, occurring in the two sexes. The analysis of the PCR products showed a band of 370 bp in males and two bands of 370 and 380 bp in females. Additionally, to confirm these results, the PCR products were digested with HaeIII and Asp700 for RFLP analysis. Male PCR products showed two bands (310 and 60 bp) after digestion with HaeIII, and a unique band (370 bp) using Asp700, while all fragments obtained from females resolved into three bands using both HaeIII (380, 310 and 60 bp) and Asp700 (370, 270 and 110 bp), confirming the previous PCR sex determination. Results from these two different DNA-based tests were in accordance, in all cases, with sexes checked by preliminary cloacoscopy. Thus, it was found that the PCR method from feather samples alone is sufficient, reliable and without any risks for a rapid sexing in Humboldt Penguin. This non-invasive sexing technique can be useful at any age to verify the sex ratio in field populations and for gender identification in ex situ conservation programs.