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A lake fauna in a shot-glass
Date:12/11/2011

Danish research team leads the way for future biodiversity monitoring using DNA traces in the environment to keep track of threatened wildlife a lake water sample the size of a shot-glass can contain evidence of an entire lake fauna.

Global biodiversity is plummeting while biologists are fighting to keep score and reliable monitoring of threatened animals remains a major challenge. The biologist toolset has changed little on this area for a hundred years - still relying on expensive expert surveys basically finding and counting the animals. However, this situation is now set to change according to a recent study by researchers at the Natural History Museum of Denmark published as a cover story in the acclaimed scientific journal Molecular Ecology. The results of the study show that a new method can be used to monitor rare and threatened animal species from DNA traces in their freshwater environments.

The development of the innovative DNA species monitoring was accomplished by PhD student Philip Francis Thomsen and Master's students Jos Kielgast and Lars L. Iversen at Centre for GeoGenetics headed by professor Eske Willerslev.

"We have shown that the DNA detection method works on a wide range of different rare species living in freshwater - they all leave DNA traces in their environment which can be detected in even very small water samples from their habitat. In the water samples we find DNA from animals as different as an otter and a dragonfly," says Philip Francis Thomsen.

By studying the fauna of one hundred different lakes and streams in Europe with both conventional methods - counting individuals - and the new DNA-based method the research team documents that DNA detection is effective even in populations where the animals are extremely rare. The study also shows that there is a clear correlation between the amount of DNA in the environment and the density of individuals meaning that the DNA detection method
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Contact: PhD student, Philip Francis Thomsen
pfthomsen@snm.ku.dk
01-145-271-42046
University of Copenhagen
Source:Eurekalert

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