The team is simplifying the process of collecting and analyzing DNA to conserve wildlife

The team is simplifying the process of collecting and analyzing DNA to conserve wildlife

Researchers report {that a} new technique for acquiring DNA from elephant dung is quicker, cheaper and extra complete than earlier strategies. Pictured: African savannah elephants in Addo Elephant Nationwide Park in South Africa. Credit score: Rudi van Aarde

A brand new method to gathering DNA permits scientists to seize genetic data from wildlife with out disturbing the animals or placing their security in danger. Examined on elephant dung, the protocol yielded sufficient DNA to sequence the whole genome of not solely elephants but additionally their related microbes, vegetation, parasites and different organisms — at a fraction of the price of present strategies.

The researchers report their findings within the journal Frontiers in genetics.

Alida de Flaming, a postdoctoral researcher on the College of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who led the work with the U.S. First, Professor of Zoology Alfred Roca. “This permits us to evaluate wildlife populations with out having to throw, seize or immobilize the animals.”

Rocca mentioned gathering DNA from elephant dung is nothing new.

“the elephant stool samples It has been used for many years to review the genetics of elephants. “However this depends on very cumbersome strategies, typically involving chemical substances that may be harmful in some circumstances. The kits are cumbersome, tough to ship and should be refrigerated, which makes the entire course of very costly.”

De Flamingh examined a comparatively cheap different: utilizing postcard-sized knowledge assortment playing cards that had been processed to stop samples from deteriorating. Earlier analysis has proven that after samples are smeared onto cardstock, they are often saved for a number of months with out refrigeration.

The team is simplifying the process of collecting and analyzing DNA to conserve wildlife

Postcard-sized pattern assortment playing cards present an inexpensive different to extra subtle strategies of gathering and storing genetic data in dung. The playing cards don’t should be refrigerated and preserve viable DNA for months after they’re collected. Credit score: Fred Zwicky

The inspiration for the examine got here from de Vlaming’s work with the U.S. anthropology professor.

“Historic DNA might be problematic as a result of the samples degrade and should lead to very low ranges of DNA for the goal species,” de Flamming mentioned. Acquiring genomic knowledge from dung can equally be tough, with decrease concentrations of elephant DNA than is on the market from blood samples. “I assumed this appeared like a wonderful alternative to check whether or not the identical methodologies could possibly be utilized to non-invasive samples to generate the identical sort of information.”

The crew first collected samples from the zoo’s elephants in experiments designed to find out how lengthy after defecation they may produce dung. Genomic knowledge. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida and the Dallas Zoo allowed the crew to gather samples from African savannah elephants. The researchers retrieved the samples instantly after defecation and 24, 48 and 72 hours later.

Their checks revealed that even a three-day-old dung produced sufficient DNA for genetic research of elephants.

The team is simplifying the process of collecting and analyzing DNA to conserve wildlife

A child elephant from the savannah strolling with the herd. Credit score: Rudi van Aarde

The researchers then examined their method on samples collected from wild African savannah elephants. Examine collaborator and co-author Rudi van Aarde, an emeritus professor of zoology and entomology on the College of Pretoria, South Africa, and colleagues used the playing cards to gather elephant dung samples after figuring out a geographically and ecologically various group of untamed areas throughout southern Africa.

by working sequence knowledge The playing cards have been obtained by means of genetic databases, and the crew finds a treasure trove of data within the dung.

“I used to be stunned,” mentioned Roca. “I assumed we would get some elephant DNA from the playing cards, however I used to be pondering on the order of two%. Nonetheless, on common, greater than 12% of the DNA is attributed to the elephant.”

The researchers mentioned this was achieved with out utilizing laboratory strategies that focus on solely elephant DNA, which is an costly and time-consuming process. Because of this, every pattern offered an infinite quantity of information concerning the elephant, the microbial composition of its intestine, its habitat and its weight-reduction plan. Researchers have even found the DNA of butterflies and different arthropods that work together with dung after it’s deposited.

“It is actually useful to get an concept of ​​the whole lot there as a result of now you can begin asking questions, not simply concerning the elephants’ genomes but additionally about issues like their well being and weight-reduction plan and whether or not there are pathogens or parasites,” de Flamming mentioned.

  • The team is simplifying the process of collecting and analyzing DNA to conserve wildlife

    A crew led by Yu of postdoctoral researcher Alida de Vlaming, left, and professor of animal sciences Alfred Rocca, developed a brand new, extra environment friendly technique for acquiring DNA from wild animals with out disturbing the animals or endangering the researchers’ lives. Credit score: Fred Zwicky

  • The team is simplifying the process of collecting and analyzing DNA to conserve wildlife

    African savanna elephants. Credit score: Rudi van Aarde

In relation to elephant genomes, Roca mentioned, the outcomes are much like these obtained with blood samples.

“You’ll be able to discover the interdependence of various elephant teams, the extent of genetic variety, the extent of inbreeding and the connection between elephants,” he mentioned. “And I might say there are a whole lot of the explanation why you would not wish to gather blood samples from wild elephants.”

“It is potential to do what you are able to do with blood, however it goes past that,” mentioned de Flaming. “Now you can do analyzes that you simply could not do earlier than with blood DNA, which solely offers details about the elephant genome.”

de Flaming is a postdoctoral researcher and Malhey and Roca are professors on the Carl R. Woese of Genomic Biology on the College of Illinois.

extra data:
The mix of non-invasive fecal DNA strategies permits entire genome and metagenome analyzes of wildlife biology, Frontiers in genetics (2023). DOI: 10.3389/fgene.2022.1021004

the quote: Staff Simplifies DNA Assortment and Evaluation for Wildlife Conservation (2023, January 12), Retrieved January 12, 2023 from

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