New Microsatellite Markers for the Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) Developed with 454 Shot-Gun Pyrosequencing

Susann Janowski1, *, Ina Gross1, Hedwig Sauer-Gürth1, Dieter Thomas Tietze1, Markus Grohme2, Marcus Frohme2, Peter Becker3, Michael Wink1
1 Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology, Heidelberg University, Im Neuenheimer Feld 364, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
2 Molecular Biotechnology and Functional Genomics, Technical University of Applied Sciences, Hochschulring 1, 15745 Wildau, Germany
3 Institute of Avian Research “Vogelwarte Helgoland”, An der Vogelwarte 21, 26386 Wilhelmshaven, Germany

© Janowski et al.; Licensee Bentham Open

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* Address correspondence to this author at the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology, Heidelberg University, Im Neuenheimer Feld 364, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany; Tel: +49 6221 54-4847; Fax: +49 6221 54-4884; E-mails:,


Long term studies, focusing on population- and socio-biology research, require the unequivocal identification of individuals. DNA studies with Short Tandem Repeats (STR loci) became a widespread tool in population genetics. We used the next-generation sequencing (NGS) approach with 454 shot-gun pyrosequencing to identify 13 new polymorphic STR loci for the Common Tern, Sterna hirundo. To enlarge the marker set we added two more loci originally developed for Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and Red-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus scopulinus) and arranged these 15 loci into three multiplex PCR panels for high throughput genotyping. Loci characterization demonstrated that our marker set is of high quality. A PIC value of about 0.67 and a power of exclusion value of 0.99 were reached. Deviation from Hardy-Weinberg expectations of some loci and low frequencies for null alleles are interpreted as a result of inbreeding and founder effect in the investigated tern colony. We used a test data set of this well-studied breeding colony of Common Tern at Banter Lake, Wilhelmshaven, Germany, to perform a parentage test. Parent-chick relationships, known from the social pedigree of that colony, were compared with genetically calculated ones. In order to test our markers and the used parentage program COLONY, we conducted six competing data sets with varying completeness of included parental genotypes. By including fully sampled parent pairs of known family assignment, results were correct for nest mates, single parents and parent pairs. Our marker set provides a powerful tool to investigate life-time reproductive success and other issues of population and socio-biology for Common Terns, e.g. in the aforementioned colony monitored for decades.

Keywords: Common Tern, COLONY Software, Genotyping, Microsatellites, Multiplex PCR, Next-Generation Sequencing, Parentage Analysis, Sterna Hirundo.