Endangered animals: DNA can now be extracted from the air
According to a new study DNA can now be extracted through the air that we breathe and thanks to this innovation it will be possible to study which species of animals are in danger of extinction. It will also be possible to study natural ecosystems in a safe and secure way. Two independent teams tested whether DNA in the air can detect which animals are dying out by taking samples from a zoo.
All living things, including us humans, release genetic material known as eDNA from waste and fur. Previous studies have analyzed eDNA shed in water to track marine animal species. However monitoring in the air can be called a challenge, as eDNA is more diluted than water.
DNA can now be detected in the air to identify endangered animals
Although the two teams used different methods to filter DNA in the air, they both succeeded identify lurking species nearby, both inside and outside the zoo. The team that worked at the zoo in the UK identified the DNA of 25 species of animals that were many meters away. The animals were inside, but their DNA seemed to escape as it was outside.
The second group of scientists working at the Copenhagen Zoo detected 49 vertebrate species, including 30 mammals. They used a fan to suck in air from the zoo and its surroundings, which may contain genetic material from breath, saliva or fur, or anything small enough to disperse in the air and float in the air. Once processed, DNA sequences were compared with a reference database to identify animal species. Both teams were able to detect species that do not live in the zoo, but in neighboring areas.
The non-invasive nature of this approach makes it particularly valuable for observation of vulnerable species or endangered, as well as those in hard-to-reach environments, such as caves and burrows. They don’t need to be visible to let us know they are in the area if we can collect traces of their DNA, literally out of nowhere. Air sampling could revolutionize terrestrial biomonitoring and provide new opportunities for mapping the makeup of animal communities e detect the invasion of non-native species.
Innovative techniques using eDNA from other environments have already had a significant impact on scientific research. Archaeologists are using the eDNA found in the dirt of the caves for understand ancient human populationswhile eDNA from Arctic land cores revealed where mammoths and other ice age animals roamed.
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