Molecular Biology Reports

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 2093–2100 | Cite as

ELEquant: a developmental framework and validation of forensic and conservation real-time PCR assays

  • Jillian ConteEmail author
  • Margret J. Potoczniak
  • Courtney Mower
  • Shanan S. Tobe
Original Article


A framework for the development and validation of a qPCR assay for species identification and DNA quantification for conservation and forensic purposes is presented. Elephants are commonly poached for their ivory tusks, which is the primary driving force behind their endangered status. In addition to poaching and trade, habitat loss due to logging and mining has also resulted in loss of elephants. Crimes against animals can be deterred and/or further prosecution sought through testing with forensic genetic techniques. The creation of novel genetic assays can greatly impact wildlife forensic science investigations in identifying the species. Molecular genetic techniques can help enforce conservation efforts; however, they must be properly developed and validated to be of evidentiary quality for court systems. African and Asian elephant buccal cells were used as model in this work. The assay provides a method to differentiate biological fluids of both genera of elephants simultaneously. It can be used for identification of elephant derived products and presents valuable quantification for optimized further testing, such as microsatellite detection.


qPCR Standards African elephant Loxodonta africana Asian elephant Elephas maximus 



We thank Merideth Fayman, Caitlin Hoey, and Meredith Rohrbaugh for early contributions to this research project. This work would not be possible without DNA sources from Six Flags: Safari Off Road Adventure, the Cincinnati Zoo, the St. Louis Zoo, the Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory, Quakertown Veterinary Clinic, and the Brandywine Zoo. Thank you for your contributions. Thank you to Arcadia University’s Master of Forensic Science Program and the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences at Keystone College for providing funds towards this project.


This work has been supported by Arcadia University’s Master of Forensic Science program, Keystone College’s Department of Biological and Physical Sciences, and University of the Sciences’ Department of Biological Sciences.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Research involving human participants

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological and Physical SciencesKeystone CollegeLa PlumeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of the SciencesPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Chemistry, Physics and Forensic ScienceArcadia UniversityGlensideUSA
  4. 4.Armed Forces Medical Examiner System’s Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFMES-AFDIL)Dover Air Force BaseDoverUSA
  5. 5.ARP Sciences, LLCRockvilleUSA
  6. 6.College of Science and EngineeringFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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