Identifying such DNA barcodes can help wildlife officials crack down on illegal bushmeat trafficking since many animal species are in sharp decline from illegal trade estimated to be worth $5 billion to $8 billion annually, said Andrew Martin, CU-Boulder associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a study co-author. Barcodes also can help monitor legal harvest of tropical animals as researchers often use the composition of species in markets as an indication of the health of the wildlife community in forests.
"It's a really amazing study in which science brings together cultures and people living on separate continents faced with very different challenges," said Martin. "Barcoding is an essential tool for the identification of natural products and is becoming the technique of choice for monitoring wildlife trade. The ultimate goal is to have barcodes for every animal on the planet."
The DNA barcodes generated from the study have been added to an online, open-access repository called the Barcode of Life Data Systems and to the National Center for Biotechnology Information's GenBank library.
A paper of the findings was published in the September online edition of Conservation Genetics.
The DNA barcode system is valuable for its precision at the level of species, according to researchers. Without it, processed and prepared meats, hides and other goods are often unidentifiable once they reach the marketplace.
Enforcing wildlife laws such as those imposed by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species or the U.S. Endangered Species Act will still be very difficult, or inefficient at best, said Martin. Suspected contraband must be confiscated and sent to a laboratory for gene sequencing, which typically requires days for results.
The team of scientists from CU-Boulder, Barnard College and the American Museum of Natural History used a region of a mitochondrial gene known as COX1 to generate DNA barcodes of 25 commonly traded mammal and reptile species in Africa, Central and South America. The study included Old World monkeys, alligators, crocodiles, antelope and wild pigs.
The COX1 gene is agreed upon by scientists as a viable segment of the genome to use in barcoding, said Martin. The COX1 gene is a relatively small DNA segment in which mutation is rapid enough to distinguish closely related species but also slow enough that individuals within the same species have similar barcodes.
Research took place at CU-Boulder laboratories, the American Museum of Natural History in New York and in the field with the collection of hundreds of blood and tissue samples. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also provided specimens from confiscations of leather handbags, belts and shoes.
Mitchell Eaton, who led the research as a doctoral student at CU-Boulder, said technologies to support rapid or automated DNA barcoding have yet to be developed but the first step is for scientists to build a catalog of barcodes. "This is not something where you can wave a scanner over a piece of meat in an airport to know the animal's identity, that kind of technology is well into the future."
Eaton is now affiliated with the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Monitoring illegal wildlife trafficking is not the only purpose of DNA barcodes. The codes also can furnish information on diversity in ecosystems, invasive species, pathogens in food supplies and the impact hunting by humans has on forest wildlife, according to the researchers.
"Much of the wildlife harvest in tropical countries is legal and supports rural inhabitants who have few other options for obtaining protein," said Eaton. "Because subsistence harvest and the more insidious forms of commercial hunting are both largely unregulated, ecologists and conservationists would like to better understand the extent and impact of the use of wildlife resource in these regions."
"Collecting samples for genetic barcoding will provide a means for more accurate species identification and a better understanding of hunting impacts on species abundance and composition," said Eaton.
The DNA barcoding in the study was successful enough to individually identify closely related species that previously had been lumped together, said Martin. The team is hoping to modify the length of barcode sequences to increase the success rate of species identification from processed leather products, which is currently a challenge due to high levels of DNA degradation.
Andrew Martin | EurekAlert!
Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh
Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences