What is eDNA?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Q&A -

DNA, or de­oxyri­bonu­cleic acid, is the mol­e­cule found in the nu­clei of liv­ing cells that car­ries the ge­netic in­struc­tions for mak­ing the en­tire or­gan­ism – the genome. Tech­nol­ogy for in­ter­pret­ing and read­ing this code (known as DNA fin­ger­print­ing) is now so ad­vanced that species can be iden­ti­fied from minis­cule quan­ti­ties of DNA. No longer is it nec­es­sary to have in­tact tis­sue sam­ples or even whole cells to work with.

So-called en­vi­ron­men­tal DNA (eDNA) can be ex­tracted from wa­ter, soil, or other me­dia, then am­pli­fied and de­coded to pro­vide ev­i­dence for the pres­ence of a par­tic­u­lar species with­out the or­gan­ism ever be­ing seen. In the UK, the tech­nique is par­tic­u­larly use­ful for con­firm­ing the pres­ence of great crested newts (which are pro­tected by law) in bod­ies of wa­ter, sav­ing eco­log­i­cal con­sul­tants many long nights of sur­vey­ing work. Amy-Jane Beer

Ponds can be tested in May for newt DNA, which en­ters wa­ter dur­ing re­pro­duc­tion, and via shed skin cells and drop­pings.

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