If you want to protect rare species, first you have to find them. In the past few years, biologists have developed a powerful new tool to do that. They’ve discovered that they can often find traces of animal DNA in streams, ponds — even oceans.
The idea took root just five years ago, when biologists in France found they could detect invasive American bullfrogs simply by sampling pond water and looking for an exact genetic match to the frogs’ DNA.
Now, all sorts of biologists are eagerly putting this test to use. The technology has been a hot topic at the Society for Conservation Biology’s global meeting in Baltimore this week.
Conservation scientist Stephen Spear, for example, has been sampling water to study one of the oddest (and most awesome) creatures in American streams: the elusive hellbender salamander (aka The ‘Snot Otter’)…