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Leeches are DNA bloodhounds in the jungle
Date:4/23/2012

Copenhagen Zoo and University of Copenhagen have in collaboration developed a new and revolutionary, yet simple and cheap, method for tracking mammals in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. They collect leeches from tropical jungles, which have been sucking blood from mammals, and subsequently analyse the blood for mammal DNA. By using this method, the researchers can get an overview of the biodiversity of the mammals without having to find them. The groundbreaking results are to be published in the prestigious scientific journal Current Biology.

"It is not unusual that unknown mammals appear on local markets and end up in soup pots without scientists knowing of it. Therefore, the new method is important to obtain knowledge of what hides in the jungle - regarding both known and unknown species. I am convinced that the new method is not only useful in Southeast Asia, but can be used in many other parts of the world where such leeches exist," explains Tom Gilbert, professor at the Centre for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen, and one of the initiators of the project together with Mads Bertelsen from Copenhagen Zoo.

Approximately a quarter of the world's mammal species are threatened with extinction. However, it is difficult and expensive to monitor mammal species and populations living in impassable rainforest areas around the globe.

But Copenhagen Zoo in collaboration with Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Demark, University of Copenhagen, have now developed a new, efficient and cheap method, which could be the solution to this problem. The answer is leeches. In this case, leeches (belonging to the genus Haemadipsa), which thrive in the terrestrial habitats of rainforests in large parts of Southeast Asia.

The significance of the new method is that the researchers do not have to depend on the usual tools, such as camera traps, collecting hair, faeces or tracking footprints to identify the shy ma
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Contact: Philip Francis Thomsen
pfthomsen@snm.ku.dk
01-145-271-42046
University of Copenhagen
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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