Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Insect soup' holds DNA key for monitoring biodiversity

Date:
August 5, 2013
Source:
University of East Anglia
Summary:
Scientists have shown that sequencing the DNA of crushed up creepy crawlies can accelerate the monitoring and cataloguing of biodiversity around the world. New research shows that a process known as ‘metabarcoding’ is much faster than and just as reliable as standard biodiversity datasets assembled with traditional labor-intensive methods. The breakthrough means that changing environments and endangered species can be monitored more easily than ever before. It could help researchers find endangered tree kangaroos in Papua New Guinea, discover which moths will be wiped out by climate change, and restore nature to heathlands in the UK, rubber plantations in China, and oil-palm plantations in Sumatra.

Insects.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of East Anglia

Scientists at the University of East Anglia have shown that sequencing the DNA of crushed up creepy crawlies can accelerate the monitoring and cataloguing of biodiversity around the world.

Related Articles


Research published today in the journal Ecology Letters shows that a process known as 'metabarcoding' is much faster than and just as reliable as standard biodiversity datasets assembled with traditional labour-intensive methods.

The breakthrough means that changing environments and endangered species can be monitored more easily than ever before. It could help researchers find endangered tree kangaroos in Papua New Guinea, discover which moths will be wiped out by climate change, and restore nature to heathlands in the UK, rubber plantations in China, and oil-palm plantations in Sumatra.

Lead researcher Dr Douglas Yu, from UEA's school of Biological Sciences, said: "Every living organism contains DNA, and even small fragments of that DNA can be used to identify species.

"We collected lots of insects and other creepy-crawlies, ground them up into an 'insect soup', and read the DNA using sequencers that are now cheap enough to use weekly or even daily.

"We compared our results with high-quality datasets collected in Malaysia, China and the UK which combined more than 55,000 arthropod and bird specimens and took experts 2,505 hours to identify. These kinds of datasets are the gold standard for biodiversity monitoring but are so expensive to compile that that we cannot use them for regular monitoring. Thus, conservation biologists and environmental managers are forced to work with little information.

"We found that our 'soup' samples give us the same biodiversity information as the gold-standard datasets. They are also more comprehensive, many times quicker to produce, less reliant on taxonomic expertise, and they have the added advantage of being verifiable by third parties."

The findings are important because they show that metabarcoding can be used to reliably inform policy and environmental management decisions.

Dr Yu added: "If the environment changes for the better or for the worse, what lives in that environment changes as well. Insect soup becomes a sensitive thermometer for the state of nature.

"For instance, we showed that if the UK Forestry Commission ploughs up some of the grass-covered trackways that run between our endangered heathland habitats, populations of rare spiders, beetles, and other creepy-crawlies can reconnect along those trackways, helping to stave off extinction.

"We are now working with the WWF and Copenhagen University to apply the method to bloodsucking leeches to look for endangered mammals in Vietnamese and Laotian rainforests. By creating a 'leech soup' we can get a list of mammals and know more about whether park conservation is working."

Each soup combines hundreds to thousands of insects caught using insect traps. The numbers captured amount to a tiny fraction of their overall populations and pose no threat to endangered species.

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council UK, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Science Foundation of China, and the Yunnan provincial government.

'Reliable, verifiable, and efficient monitoring of biodiversity via metabarcoding' is published in the journal Ecology Letters on August 5, 2013.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of East Anglia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yinqiu Ji, Louise Ashton, Scott M. Pedley, David P. Edwards, Yong Tang, Akihiro Nakamura, Roger Kitching, Paul M. Dolman, Paul Woodcock, Felicity A. Edwards, Trond H. Larsen, Wayne W. Hsu, Suzan Benedick, Keith C. Hamer, David S. Wilcove, Catharine Bruce, Xiaoyang Wang, Taal Levi, Martin Lott, Brent C. Emerson, Douglas W. Yu. Reliable, verifiable and efficient monitoring of biodiversity via metabarcoding. Ecology Letters, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/ele.12162

Cite This Page:

University of East Anglia. "'Insect soup' holds DNA key for monitoring biodiversity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130805092312.htm>.
University of East Anglia. (2013, August 5). 'Insect soup' holds DNA key for monitoring biodiversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130805092312.htm
University of East Anglia. "'Insect soup' holds DNA key for monitoring biodiversity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130805092312.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Around the World Take Flight

Birds Around the World Take Flight

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 22, 2014) An imperial eagle equipped with a camera spreads its wings over London. It's just one of the many birds making headlines in this week's "animal roundup". Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) The Houston Zoo released video of a male baby okapi. Okapis, also known as the "forest giraffe", are native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Video is mute from source. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins