Telltale bits of DNA help track past and elusive wildlife

4 weeks ago WBRZ 0

Photo: The Washington Post

NEW YORK (AP) – The genetic trail that plants and animals leave behind is helping scientists find them without actually catching them.

Living things shed tiny bits of DNA all the time. This residue known as environmental DNA can persist in the surroundings for days, weeks or even millennia. Scientists say scooping a bottle of water or a sample of soil can be enough to detect the genetic material.

Detecting eDNA promises to help in managing and protecting biodiversity. This information can provide clues of ancient life, early signs of invaders and diseases, and evidence of species that are hard to spot.

Researchers have used the technology to search for signs of ancient mammoths in Siberia, early warnings of frog die-offs in California, and evidence of elusive sawfish in Mexico.