Population genetics of the Eurasian Badger

This project was a collaboration between Professor Terry Burke and Dr Chris Cheeseman of the UK Central Science Laboratory (CSL).

Eurasian Badger.
Eurasian badger (Meles meles)

The work was supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) to investigate the spatial population genetics of badgers in relation to bovine tuberculosis (TB) infection. Bovine tuberculosis has been spreading rapidly in British dairy herds and badgers have been implicated as the source of infection.

The project involved using molecular markers and spatial information to deduce the relationships and population structure in badger populations and to relate any TB infection found among those animals to the demography of badgers and cattle.

The results were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the Krebs trial, which tested the link between badger and cattle infection experimentally, and involved determining whether cattle infect badgers or vice versa. We have developed a powerful set of microsatellite marker loci for estimating relatedness and we used detailed data records and samples from an intensively studied population to evaluate our methods.

The work included:

  • Genotyping of all sampled badgers at multiple microsatellite loci using an Applied Biosystems 377 automated sequencer
  • Developing, testing and applying methods for the inference of social structure from genetic data
  • Investigating the population structure and gene flow among badger populations
  • Collaboration with the Central Science Laboratory to relate TB infection to social structure and spatial ecology


Dr Lisa Pope (2003–2007)

Kristien Erven (2001–2003)

John Chittock (2004–2005)

Dr Alain Frantz (2006–2007)

Developers of the badger microsatellite markers

Carolyn Greig (1994–1997, University of Leicester)

Dr Deborah Dawson (1998–2003; Universities of Leicester and Sheffield)

Dr Petra Carpenter (1998–2002)

Project supervisor

Professor Terry Burke

Email: t.a.burke@sheffield.ac.uk


Dr Chris Cheeseman, Dr Lucy Rogers & colleagues, Central Science Laboratory, Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire, UK


(including research and development and studies of other European badger populations)

Frantz AC, McDevitt AD, Pope LC, Kochan J, Davison J, Clements CF, Elmeros M, Molina-Vacas G, Ruiz-Gonzalez A, Balestrieri A, Van Den Berge K, Breyne P, Do Linh San E, Argen EO, Suchentrunk F, Schley L, Kowalczyk R, Kostka BI, Cirovic D, Sprem N, Colyn M, Ghirardi M, Racheva V, Braun C, Oliveira R, Lanszki J, Stubbe A, Stubbe M, Stier N, Burke T (2014) Re-visiting the phylogeography and demography of European badgers (Meles meles) based on broad sampling, multiple markers and simulations. Heredity, 113, 443–453.

Frantz AC, Do Linh San E, Pope LC, Burke T (2010) Using genetic methods to investigate dispersal in two badger (Meles meles) populations with different ecological characteristics. Heredity, 104, 493–501.

Frantz AC, Pope LC, Etherington TR, Wilson GJ, Burke T (2010) Using isolation-by-distance-based approaches to assess the barrier effect of linear landscape elements on badger (Meles meles) dispersal. Molecular Ecology, 19, 1663–1674.

Carpenter PJ, Pope LC, Greig C, Dawson DA, Rogers LM, Erven K, Wilson GJ, Delahay RJ, Cheeseman CL, Burke T (2005) Mating system of the European badger, Meles meles, in a high density population. Molecular Ecology, 14, 273–284.

Frantz AC, Schaul M, Pope LC, Fack F, Schley L, Muller CP, Roper TJ (2004) Estimating population size by genotyping remotely plucked hair: the Eurasian badger. Journal of Applied Ecology, 41, 985–995.

Frantz AC, Pope LC, Carpenter PJ, Roper TJ, Wilson GJ, Delahay RJ, Burke T (2003) Reliable microsatellite genotyping of the Eurasian badger (Meles meles) using faecal DNA. Molecular Ecology, 12, 1649–1661.

Wilson GJ, Frantz AC, Pope LC, Roper TJ, Burke TA, Cheeseman CL, Delahay RJ (2003) Estimation of badger abundance using faecal DNA typing. Journal of Applied Ecology, 40, 658–666.

Carpenter PJ, Dawson DA, Greig C, Parham A, Cheeseman CL, Burke T (2003) Isolation of 39 polymorphic microsatellite loci and the development of a fluorescent marker set for the Eurasian badger (Meles meles) (Carnivora: Mustelidae). Molecular Ecology Notes, 3, 610–615.

Frantz AC, Pope LC, Carpenter PJ, Roper TJ, Wilson GJ, Delahay RJ, Burke T (2003) Reliable microsatellite genotyping of the Eurasian badger (Meles meles) using faecal DNA. Molecular Ecology12, 1649–1661.     

Associated data

Seventy-eight Eurasian badger (Meles meles) microsatellite markers

Appendix Cross-utility of mustelid microsatellite loci in other Mustelidae species (Carnivora; Fissipedia; Mustelidae)

Sequence data for 512 Meles meles microsatellite markers

Badger websites

UoS Study of Social Behaviour in the Eurasian Badger Meles meles

The Mammal Society

The Badger Trust (previously known as the National Federation of Badger Groups)

Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire, UK

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