Kristine Bohmann had visited Eswatini in 2010 with a mission: to gather bat droppings. She’s not a guano fanatic. She hoped to indicate that the bats were eating crop pests to persuade sugar-cane farmers to preserve the bats’ habitat. Often, this might require her to scrutinize bat droppings under a microscope to search out and identify insect remains. As an alternative, Bohmann returned to her master’s program at the University of Copenhagen with a plan. “I simply got here again with literal bags of bat shit and an idea.”
That concept was to determine the species present in bat feces — not microscopically, however genetically. Bohmann’s research confirmed that sequencing the insect DNA in bat feces may reveal what the bats ate1.
Ecologists are more and more counting on DNA shed by organisms into the atmosphere, often known as environmental DNA (eDNA), for his or her analysis. Instead of trekking into the sector for weeks or months to gather and taxonomically determine creatures, these scientists are tapping sources comparable to shed skin cells, fish scales, urine, feces, blood and saliva for details on uncommon, endangered and invasive species, and to measure biodiversity.
Early eDNA surveys used the polymerase chain response (PCR) to amplify DNA from a person species. However, newer techniques, such because the one Bohmann used, can goal a whole range of species’ DNA in the identical pattern. And the latest strategies bypass PCR altogether, as a substitute utilizing DNA sequencing to detect organismal signatures.