Scientists capture animal DNA in the air for the first time

But for many biologists, tracking mammals that move miles a day and keep an eye on humans is nearly impossible.Enter DNA“If we want to restore ecosystems, we need to understand how our conservation actions affect threatened and endangered species. But to do that, we need to be able to detect the rarest, most shy, and most mysterious species,” says Montgomery. Michael Schwartz, a senior scientist at the U.S. Forest Service’s National Wildlife and Fish Conservation Genomics Center in Missoula, Dana, wrote to Wired in an email. “We need new technologies, such as the ability to detect environmental DNA in the air.”

Schwartz, who was not involved in the two new studies, has been using air, water and soil samples to track large brown bats (ephemera), whose numbers have been wiped out by White Nose Syndrome, a fungal-borne disease that was introduced to the United States in 2006. Schwartz and his colleagues in September Magazine biological protection They examined eDNA samples from the soil and water outside the caves where the bats inhabited. They also used air samplers as part of the project to see if they could capture airborne DNA from bat enclosures in Ohio. The study reported that six of the seven filtered air samples successfully detected airborne eDNA, but at low concentrations, despite the presence of 30 bats in the room.

Schwartz said his colleagues are improving their air sampling techniques and working on a way to collect small amounts of air DNA from Snow. This not only allowed the USFS team to detect recently traveled mammal species Exceed Snow, but digging Enter It also allows them to find evidence of a particular animal crossing the area months ago. Schwarz’s team published some of the results of the project in the journal biological protection 2019. Using the ski tracks to detect shy predators like the lynx is cost-effective, efficient and definitive, he said.

Can air DNA sampling techniques be used to track an individual’s genetic material? Hypothetically yes, but it’s not, one expert said. “It’s possible, but it’s going to be more challenging,” said Melania Cristescu, associate professor of ecogenomics at McGill University, who uses eDNA to sample aquatic habitats. Human DNA in hair, saliva, blood or other genetic material left on surfaces is easier to analyze than air. (Swiss researchers recently solved a family lineage mystery, using DNA from stamps Stickered on postcards from World War I, proving the stability of molecules under certain conditions. ) but it takes longer to get a sufficiently large sample of airborne genetic material, and researchers have to be very careful not to contaminate the filter with their own DNA.

Weather is also a factor for airborne DNA. For example, sampling may not work well if it is raining or windy, as these conditions may remove DNA-carrying particles from the air. It’s unclear how well the molecule can withstand high heat or bright sunlight. “Does solar radiation degrade DNA? Possibly, but we don’t know at what rate,” Claire said. “We don’t know how far the wind can blow DNA away. We don’t know how temperature affects its rate of degradation. These are very interesting questions.”

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