Conservation Science

Scottish red deer immunogenetics

This project is set to develop a high throughput genotyping protocol of functional MHC Class II loci in Scottish red deer populations with the aim to develop an immunogenetic map across Scotland.

One of the main challenges for deer management in the context of climate change and landscape modification is the control of emergent or re-emergent disease in wild populations. The emergence and spread of disease in wild deer, as well as their negative consequences, has been well-reported in North America. In Europe, the manifestation and risk of disease in wild deer has increased in recent times, with the risk of emergence and spread of disease likely to be exacerbated by the by the substantial increase of wild deer distribution and numbers in the past decades. 

The Scottish red deer (Cervus elaphus) represents one of the largest continuous populations of red deer in Europe. This iconic is a key species for the Scottish upland biodiversity and an important element of the Scottish rural economy due to its value as game species. Therefore, studies assessing the genetic potential of Scottish red deer populations to withstand pathogens and adapt to future environmental changes are important if we are to devise effective deer management strategies. Towards this end, we have started a Scottish red deer immunogenetics research line.

A preliminary study of variation at the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) in Scottish red deer has revealed that allelic variation in high and that patterns of allelic variation are not congruent with geography. Currently, we are developing a high throughput genotyping of functional DRB and DQ loci that will serve as platform to construct an immunogenetic map of red deer populations across Scotland. In parallel, we are also developing a new complementary research line on adaptive genetic variation in Scottish red deer through the analyses of Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) and body condition data.  Please contact Dr Sílvia Pérez-Espona for further information.