DNA samples collected from the air can be used to detect large numbers of animal species, a non-invasive method that could change the way animal biodiversity is monitored and measured.
This has been independently demonstrated by two research groups in Denmark and the United Kingdom whose findings were published in the journal Current Biology. The first was directed by Elizabeth Clare and the second by Kristine Bohmann.
Both teams wanted to test whether environmental DNA (eDNA) was sufficient to detect terrestrial animal species by collecting air samples from two zoos in Europe.
Although each team used a different method to filter eDNA from the air, both were able to detect the presence of numerous animal species inside and outside zoos.
Bohmann’s group collected air samples using three different air sampling devices: a commercial water-based vacuum cleaner and two fans with attached filters.
Clare’s team used sensitive filters connected to vacuum pumps to collect more than 70 air samples from different locations in the zoo, both inside and outside areas.
The results of both studies exceeded their expectations. By analyzing the collected samples, the British team identified DNA from 25 species of animals, such as tigers, lemurs and dingoes, while the Danish team detected 49 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish.
“We were even able to collect eDNA from animals that were hundreds of meters from where we were testing without a significant drop in concentration, and even from sealed buildings in the open. The animals were inside, but their DNA was leaking, ”Clare commented.
The wide range of tracked species demonstrates the potential use of airborne animal tracking, Clare and Bohman note. This method can be used to detect and monitor terrestrial animal species in the wild and would be extremely useful in global conservation efforts.
With information from EFE