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 accumulating DNA permits scientists to seize genetic info 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 entire genome of not solely elephants but additionally their related microbes, crops, 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 accumulating DNA from elephant dung is nothing new.

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

De Flamingh examined a comparatively cheap various: 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 various to extra refined strategies of accumulating and storing genetic info in dung. The playing cards don’t should be refrigerated and keep viable DNA for months after they’re collected. Credit score: Fred Zwicky

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

“Historic DNA may be problematic as a result of the samples degrade and will lead to very low ranges of DNA for the goal species,” de Flamming mentioned. Acquiring genomic knowledge from dung can equally be troublesome, with decrease concentrations of elephant DNA than is out there from blood samples. “I believed this appeared like a superb alternative to check whether or not the identical methodologies may very well be utilized to non-invasive samples to generate the identical sort of information.”

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

Their exams 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 had been obtained by genetic databases, and the workforce finds a treasure trove of data within the dung.

“I used to be stunned,” mentioned Roca. “I believed we’d get some elephant DNA from the playing cards, however I used to be considering 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 concentrate on solely elephant DNA, which is an costly and time-consuming process. Because of this, every pattern supplied an infinite quantity of information concerning the elephant, the microbial composition of its intestine, its habitat and its food regimen. 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 thought of ​​all the things 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 food regimen 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 workforce 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

On the subject of elephant genomes, Roca mentioned, the outcomes are just like these obtained with blood samples.

“You may discover the interdependence of various elephant teams, the extent of genetic range, the extent of inbreeding and the connection between elephants,” he mentioned. “And I’d say there are a number of explanation why you would not need to acquire blood samples from wild elephants.”

“It is attainable 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 just could not do earlier than with blood DNA, which solely gives 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 info:
The mix of non-invasive fecal DNA strategies permits complete genome and metagenome analyzes of wildlife biology, Frontiers in genetics (2023). DOI: 10.3389/fgene.2022.1021004

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

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