According to a new study, we left DNA everywhere, including in the air, and for the first time researchers collected animal DNA from mere air samples.
The· DNA The release of humans and other organisms into the environment is called environmental DNA (eDNA). Collecting eDNA from water to learn about the species that inhabit it has become quite common, but until now no one has tried to collect animal eDNA from the air.
“What we wanted to know was whether we could filter eDNA from the air to track the presence of terrestrial animals,” said research author Elizabeth Claire, an ecologist at Queen Mary University of London. It says. Video summary Published March 31 in Journal for Research PeerJ.. “We were interested in whether this’airDNA’ could be used as a way to assess what species are present in burrows and caves that are not easily visible or captured,” she said. I added.
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As a proof-of-concept experiment, Claire and her colleagues attempted to collect DNA from the air at an animal facility containing model organisms. Naked mole rat.. Researchers have detected both human and mole rat DNA in the air in both the mole rat enclosure and the room in which the enclosure is housed.
“The proof that relatively large animal DNA can be detected in air samples dramatically expands the possibilities of aerial eDNA analysis,” said Matthew, an ecologist at Texas Tech University’s Lubbock, who was not involved in the new study. Burns said.
Over the last decade, Burns has begun collecting and analyzing eDNA to study and control plant and animal populations. “The analogy I use is
Like a crime scene detective, find a cigarette butt, wipe the DNA, and place the criminal on the crime scene. Instead of looking for criminals, we do that with eDNA, except that we’re looking for rare or elusive species, “Burns said.
Prior to this study, some researchers collected plant DNA from the air, but most of those experiments were “intentionally releasing a plume of DNA into the air in the form of pollen and dispersed seeds. Included “expected” plants. Animals, on the other hand, do not. “I wasn’t sure if this would work,” Claire told Live Science.
However, animals do not shoot pollen spores into the air, but release DNA in the form of saliva or dead skin cells, for example. To see if animal eDNA can be collected from these sources, Claire and her colleagues collaborated with HEPA filters commonly found in heating and ventilation systems from the Hadakadebanezumi enclosure and from the rooms that house the enclosure. The air was vacuumed through the same filter as above. The researchers then extracted the DNA from the filter and sequenced it. To identify the species from which the DNA came, researchers compared the sequences with reference sequences in the database.
Claire told Live Science that the discovery of human DNA in animal enclosures initially surprised researchers. But given that humans take care of mole rats, it makes sense in retrospect, Claire said.
The presence of human DNA in almost every sample in this study is a “big hurdle,” Burns said. On the one hand, it encourages the sensitive detection methods, Burns said. However, “this may also suggest that levitating samples are particularly susceptible to DNA from the research team, especially if mammals are the subject of analysis,” he added.
To avoid such contamination, researchers should use clean room techniques (air filters, gowns, hairnets, etc.) to avoid adding DNA to the environment they are studying or the DNA sample they are working on. He said there might be.
In the future, scientists want to use this technology to monitor animal species in hard-to-reach dwellings. “Rather than tracking animals to figure out what’s there, you can imagine piercing a tube into a roost or tunnel system and drawing air through that system,” Claire told Live Science.
It may also be a good way to detect rare species that are present in a particular environment. Endangered species, She added. It can also help detect species without interaction, which can be beneficial, Burns said. “”[The method might] It gives you the opportunity to treat living things and investigate them without stress, “he said.
Whether eDNA analysis can help scientists estimate population sizes and the number of animals in their homes is controversial, but Claire said she didn’t like it. “The procedure has too many steps that can change the amount of DNA it collects,” she said.
Claire and her colleagues are currently studying how the distance traveled by airDNA and the size of the space affect the amount of eDNA detected, Claire said in a video summary.
According to Burns, another important step in studying animal airDNA is to collect airDNA from outdoor animals rather than in the laboratory.
Originally published in Live Science.