Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

But for many biologists, tracking mammals that move miles each day and being wary of humans is almost impossible. Enter eDNA. “If we want to restore the ecosystem, we need to understand how our conservation activities affect endangered and threatened species. But in order to do that, we need to be able to identify even the rarest, most embarrassing and most mysterious species, “Michael Schwartz, a senior scientist at the US Forest Service’s National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation in Missoula, Montana, wrote in an email. “We need new technologies, such as the ability to detect airborne environmental DNA,” he said.

Schwartz, who was not involved in the two new studies, is using air, water and soil samples to track large brown bats (Aptesicus fuscas), Whose numbers have been devastated by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that came to the United States in 2006. Schwartz and his colleagues published a study in September Journal Biological conservation That examines EDNA samples from soil and water outside caves where bats live. They used an air sample as part of a project to see if they could capture airborne DNA from a bat in Ohio. Six of the seven filtered air samples successfully detected their EDNA in the air, the study said, but the concentration was low despite having 30 bats in the house.

Schwartz says his colleagues are refining their air sampling techniques and working on a method of collecting small quantities. DNA from snow. This does not only allow the USFS team to identify which mammal species has recently traveled Over Snowpack, but digging In This allows them to find evidence that a certain species of animal traveled to the area a few months ago. Schwartz’s group published some of the project’s results in its journal Biological conservation In 2019. Using snow tracks to identify shy predators like the Lynx is affordable, efficient and secure, he says.

Will the air-DNA sampling strategy work to track genetic material from individuals? Presumably yes, but not practically, says one expert. “It’s possible, but it would be a little more challenging for anyone who uses eDNA to sample aquatic habitats,” said Melania Kristescu, an associate professor of ecological genomics at McGill University. Bits of human DNA from hair, saliva, blood, or other genetic material left on the surface are easier to analyze than air. (Swiss researchers have recently solved a family ancestry mystery using DNA from postage stamps Stuck on a World War I postcard, showing the stability of molecules under certain conditions.) But it will take longer to get large enough samples of airborne genetic material, and researchers have to be very careful not to allow their own DNA. To contaminate the filter.

Along with airborne DNA, weather is also a factor. Sampling may not work as well in rainy or windy weather, as these conditions can clear the air of DNA-carrying particles. It is also not clear how well the molecule will hold under heat or bright sunlight. “Does solar radiation cause DNA damage? Probably, but we don’t know the rate,” says Claire. “We don’t know how far the wind can spread DNA. “

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