Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Finding the 'conservación' in conservation genetics

05.08.2015

Special journal issue highlights applications of conservation genetics in Latin America

A recently published special issue of the Journal of Heredity focuses on case studies of real-world applications of conservation genetics in Latin America, from nabbing parrot smugglers to exposing fraudulent fish sales.


An upcoming issue of Journal of Heredity focuses on the use of conservation genetic techniques in Latin America. One paper included in the issue examines the population structure -- or lack thereof -- in jaguars of the Brazilian Pantanal. This population has not been genetically fragmented and is relatively healthy, in contrast to nearby populations in the Atlantic Forest.

Credit: Adriano Gambarini/Projeto Onçafari

The discipline of conservation genetics - the use of genetic techniques to further goals of conserving and restoring biodiversity - has been growing for at least four decades. But only relatively recently have genetic techniques been used not just to understand conservation problems, but to solve those problems as well. The application of genetic techniques is increasingly important in Latin America, where vast biodiversity is being degraded by inexorable economic development.

"Latin America has an unusual level of biodiversity, and is also undergoing unprecedented development, making the region of particular conservation concern," said Dr. Kathryn M. Rodriguez-Clark, one of the editors of the special issue. "But these factors also contribute to the growth of a scientific community able to provide real help, given the right support."

That support began a decade ago with the establishment of La Red de Genética para la Conservaci?n (ReGeneC, or in English, The Conservation Genetics Network). ReGeneC provides an annual intensive course in conservation genetic techniques and applications for South American students and researchers. ReGeneC's work thus far culminated in a conference in Caracas, Venezuela in May 2014; many of the projects presented there are described in the papers in this Journal of Heredity special issue.

The special issue includes fifteen papers highlighting the use of genetic techniques to address problems in the conservation of Latin American biodiversity, ranging from trees to toads to tamarins.

One article in the issue describes the population structure - or lack thereof - of jaguars in the Brazilian Pantanal, the largest tropical wetland in the world. Researchers used DNA analysis of blood samples to characterize genetic diversity and population structure of 52 jaguars sampled in four locations in the Pantanal, a large and relatively pristine ecosystem. They found a high degree of genetic diversity among individuals, indicative of a single, unfragmented (and therefore healthy) population. Samples collected over similar spatial scales in the Atlantic Forest, a 4,000 km2 ecosystem on the Atlantic coast of Brazil, told a different story. Jaguars in that ecosystem have recently become divided into multiple subpopulations because of habitat fragmentation; one of the subpopulations has now become extinct.

"Results from the Pantanal serve as a baseline of comparison for the Atlantic Forest jaguars, indicating that at the spatial scale studied, jaguar populations usually show genetic connectivity," explained co-author Dr. Eduardo Eizirik. "These results support the need for hands-on conservation of the species, and provide a baseline of undisturbed population structure."

Another study included in the special issue used DNA "barcoding" to identify an instance of attempted illegal smuggling of eggs from Brazilian parrots. A man caught in a Brazilian airport with 58 avian eggs claimed they were quail eggs but authorities suspected otherwise. The embryos did not hatch, ruling out morphological identification of hatchlings. Two DNA tests were conducted, both revealing that 57 of the eggs were parrots and one was an owl species. This kind of DNA sequencing can be a powerful tool to assist in criminal investigations and design of strategies to prevent wildlife smuggling.

"With these data the police could build a more precise scenario of this smuggling case," said co-author Dr. Cristina Miyaki. "This type of analysis could be adopted by wildlife authorities for detection of other rare species affected by smuggling, or for border control and monitoring of dispersal of invasive species," she added.

A third study focused on solving a two-fold problem of consumer fraud and a threat to the endangered pink river dolphin (boto) in the Brazilian Amazon. Brazilians will not knowingly eat the scavenger catfish Calophysus macropterus, called locally 'piracatinga,' considering it repulsive. This fishery is often carried out using flesh of river dolphins and caiman as bait. Around 2008, however, a new fish appeared in Brazilian markets, called 'douradinha.' This fish did not appear to correspond to any known Amazonian species. Researchers suspected that douradinha was actually piracatinga, renamed to mislead consumers and to avoid scrutiny of fishing practices that involve killing dolphins and caimans.

A team of scientists collected 62 'douradinha' samples from supermarkets and fish shops, and used DNA sequencing to determine the true species for each sample. More than 60% of samples sold as 'douradinha' were determined to be piracatinga, and the remaining samples were identified as other low-value scavenger fish species. Sequencing of stomach contents from two fish sampled confirmed the presence of river dolphin, presumably from bait used in the fishery. The fishery for piracatinga has now been shut down, in part thanks to the results of this study.

"Our work was fundamental in supporting the movement that led to banning douradinha. We showed not only that dolphins were being used as bait, but perhaps more importantly, that even changing the name from 'douradinha' to a new fictitious name will not work to circumvent the ban -- our technique will still be able to determine the true identity of the fish being sold," said Dr. Antonio Solé-Cava, one of the study's co-authors.

Rodriguez-Clark pointed out that many of the studies in the special issue do not use the most cutting-edge techniques available, which is part of their genius. "A big part of the problem in addressing conservation issues isn't technological, it's political, or economic, or cultural," she said.

"These scientists are all working on real-world problems. Sometimes the test of real ingenuity is knowing how to use the basic technology necessary to solve the problem, and doing it in just the right way."

Nancy Steinberg | EurekAlert!

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion

24.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>