New Method Uses DNA to Track Marine Species

Written by on September 4, 2012 in Marine Life, Technology

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen may be changing the way all researchers monitor marine biodiversity in the future.  The new technique tracks fish and whales by identifying traces of DNA left in seawater.

“The new DNA-method means that we can keep better track of life beneath the surface of the oceans around the world, and better monitor and protect ocean biodiversity and resources,” explained Philip Francis Thomsen, a PhD student from the Natural History Museum of Denmark‘s Center for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen.

“We analyzed seawater samples specifically for fish DNA and we were very surprised when the results started to show up on the screen.  We ended up with DNA from 15 different fish species in water samples of just a half litre.  We found DNA from both small and large fish, as well as both common species and rare guests.  Cod, herring, eel, plaice, pilchard and many more have all left a DNA trace in the seawater,” said Thomsen.

This new method is especially promising, as it is not invasive and will not impact the local habitat.  It also has the potential to be applied to fisheries by using the DNA to estimate fish stocks.

Limanda limanda, a species identified through trace DNA in the study. Photo credit- Hans Hillewaert.

Limanda limanda, a species identified through trace DNA in the study. Photo credit- Hans Hillewaert.

You can read the full press release here: New DNA-method tracks fish and whales in seawater.

The study was published in two parts in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.  You can read them here:

Sardina pilchardus, one of the many speices identified by DNA in this study.

Sardina pilchardus, one of the many speices identified by DNA in this study.

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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