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Applicability of major histocompatibility complex DRB1 alleles as markers to detect vertebrate hybridization: a case study from Iberian ibex × domestic goat in southern Spain

Samer Alasaad12*, Joerns Fickel3, Luca Rossi4, Mathieu Sarasa5, Buenaventura BenÃ-tez-Camacho6, José E Granados7 and Ramón C Soriguer12

Author Affiliations

1 Estación Biológica de Doñana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Avda. Américo Vespucio s/n, 41092, Sevilla, Spain

2 Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies (IEU), University of Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057, Zürich, Switzerland

3 Research Group Evolutionary Genetics, Leibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Alfred-Kowalke-Str. 17, D-10315, Berlin, Germany

4 Dipartimento di Produzioni Animali, Epidemiologia ed Ecologia, Università degli Studi di Torino, Via Leonardo da Vinci 44, I-10095, Grugliasco, Italy

5 Grupo Biología de las especies cinegéticas y plagas (RNM-118), Avda. Américo Vespucio s/n, Sevilla, 41092, Spain

6 c/Maestro Francisco Carmona, 9-2, 14810, Carcabuey, Córdoba, Spain

7 Espacio Natural de Sierra Nevada, Carretera Antigua de Sierra Nevada, Km 7.5, Córdoba, Spain

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Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2012, 54:56  doi:10.1186/1751-0147-54-56

Published: 24 September 2012



Hybridization between closely related wild and domestic species is of great concern because it can alter the evolutionary integrity of the affected populations. The high allelic variability of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) loci usually excludes them from being used in studies to detect hybridization events. However, if a) the parental species don’t share alleles, and b) one of the parental species possesses an exceptionally low number of alleles (to facilitate analysis), then even MHC loci have the potential to detect hybrids.


By genotyping the exon2 of the MHC class II DRB1 locus, we were able to detect hybridization between domestic goats (Capra hircus) and free-ranging Iberian ibex (Capra pyrenaica hispanica) by molecular means.


This is the first documentation of a Capra pyrenaica × Capra hircus hybridization, which presented us the opportunity to test the applicability of MHC loci as new, simple, cost-effective, and time-saving approach to detect hybridization between wild species and their domesticated relatives, thus adding value to MHC genes role in animal conservation and management.

Hybridization; MHC alleles; Capra pyrenaica; Capra hircus; Wildlife conservation