Shattering DNA May Have Let Gibbons Evolve New Species
by Colin Barras
Gibbons have such strange, scrambled DNA, it looks like someone has taken a hammer to it. Their genome has been massively reshuffled, and some biologists say that could be how new gibbon species evolved.
Gibbons are apes, and were the first to break away from the line that led to humans. There are around 16 living gibbon species, in four genera. They all have small bodies, long arms and no tails. But it’s what gibbons don’t share that is most unusual. Each species carries a distinct number of chromosomes in its genome: some species have just 38 pairs, some as many as 52 pairs.
"This ‘genome plasticity’ has always been a mystery," says Wesley Warren of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. It is almost as if the genome exploded and was then pieced back together in the wrong order.
To understand why, Warren and his colleagues have now produced the first draft of a gibbon genome. It comes from a female northern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) called Asia…
(read more: New Scientist)
image: Heather Angel/Natural Visions

Shattering DNA May Have Let Gibbons Evolve New Species

by Colin Barras

Gibbons have such strange, scrambled DNA, it looks like someone has taken a hammer to it. Their genome has been massively reshuffled, and some biologists say that could be how new gibbon species evolved.

Gibbons are apes, and were the first to break away from the line that led to humans. There are around 16 living gibbon species, in four genera. They all have small bodies, long arms and no tails. But it’s what gibbons don’t share that is most unusual. Each species carries a distinct number of chromosomes in its genome: some species have just 38 pairs, some as many as 52 pairs.

"This ‘genome plasticity’ has always been a mystery," says Wesley Warren of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. It is almost as if the genome exploded and was then pieced back together in the wrong order.

To understand why, Warren and his colleagues have now produced the first draft of a gibbon genome. It comes from a female northern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) called Asia…

(read more: New Scientist)

image: Heather Angel/Natural Visions

Tiny Newly Discovered Frog From Brazil Given Heroic Name
The Atlantic Forest is a hotspot of biodiversity and one of the most species richness biome of anurans (frogs, tree-frogs, and toads) in the world. However, current levels of diversity might be still underestimated.
In the past few years has been an increase in the description of new endemic species of this biome along with the advance of molecular techniques and availability of samples for DNA analysis.
Using a more extensive number of samples for molecular and morphological analysis, researchers from the University of Richmond and The George Washington University described a tiny new species of narrow-mouthed frog from the Microhylidae family in the open access journal ZooKeys.
Chiasmocleis quilombola occurs in the Atlantic Forest of the Espírito Santo State, southeastern Brazil. Despite its modest size, adults reach only about 14 mm, the new species bears a heroic name inspired by the quilombos communities typical of the Espírito Santo State in Brazil, where the frogs were collected…
(read more: Science Daily)
Credit: João F. R. Tonini; CC-BY 4.0

Tiny Newly Discovered Frog From Brazil Given Heroic Name

The Atlantic Forest is a hotspot of biodiversity and one of the most species richness biome of anurans (frogs, tree-frogs, and toads) in the world. However, current levels of diversity might be still underestimated.

In the past few years has been an increase in the description of new endemic species of this biome along with the advance of molecular techniques and availability of samples for DNA analysis.

Using a more extensive number of samples for molecular and morphological analysis, researchers from the University of Richmond and The George Washington University described a tiny new species of narrow-mouthed frog from the Microhylidae family in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Chiasmocleis quilombola occurs in the Atlantic Forest of the Espírito Santo State, southeastern Brazil. Despite its modest size, adults reach only about 14 mm, the new species bears a heroic name inspired by the quilombos communities typical of the Espírito Santo State in Brazil, where the frogs were collected…

(read more: Science Daily)

Credit: João F. R. Tonini; CC-BY 4.0

CURRENT WORK IN HERPETOLOGY:
How amphibians crossed continents: DNA helps piece together 300-million-year journey
Source: George Washington University
A professor at GWU has succeeded in constructing a first-of-its-kind comprehensive diagram of the geographic distribution of amphibians, showing the movement of 3,309 species between 12 global ecoregions. Armed with DNA sequence data, he sought to accurately piece together the 300-million-year storyline of their journey…
(read more: Science Daily)
photo: Pseudophilautus poppiae, a microendemic shrub frog from Southern Sri Lanka that only occurs in a few hectares of cloud forest. (Credit: Alex Pyron)

CURRENT WORK IN HERPETOLOGY:

How amphibians crossed continents: DNA helps piece together 300-million-year journey

Source: George Washington University

A professor at GWU has succeeded in constructing a first-of-its-kind comprehensive diagram of the geographic distribution of amphibians, showing the movement of 3,309 species between 12 global ecoregions. Armed with DNA sequence data, he sought to accurately piece together the 300-million-year storyline of their journey…

(read more: Science Daily)

photo: Pseudophilautus poppiae, a microendemic shrub frog from Southern Sri Lanka that only occurs in a few hectares of cloud forest. (Credit: Alex Pyron)

I mean, it’s just too hard to send actual humans, right?

“Our best bet for space exploration could be printing humans, organically, on another planet,” Adam Stelzner, the Curiosity rover’s lead engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said during a conference this month. In a truly wonderful story, Motherboard talked with Stelzner and Harvard University biologist Gary Ruvkun about the idea. Here’s how it would work…

Why Fly? Flightless Bird Mystery Solved, Say Evolutionary Scientists
Ostriches, emus, moas, and other flightless birds of the world evolved flightlessness separately.
by Allison Fromme
Large flightless birds are scattered across all but one of the world’s southern continents. Since Darwin’s era, people have wondered: How are they related?
Ostriches, emus, cassowaries, rheas, and kiwis can’t fly. Unlike most birds, their flat breastbones lack the keel that anchors the strong pectoral muscles required for flight. Their puny wings can’t possibly lift their heavy bodies off the ground. These flightless birds, called ratites, are clearly different from other avian species.
Darwin noticed, and he predicted that ratites were related to each other. His contemporary, Thomas Huxley, found another commonality among them: The arrangement of bones in the roofs of their mouths appeared more reptile-like than that of other birds.
At about the same time, another biologist, Richard Owen, assembled the remains of a giant ostrich-like fossil skeleton, the first extinct moa known to the western world. But a pesky detail puzzled Huxley: Small, ground-dwelling South American tinamous didn’t seem to fit neatly with the ratites or other birds…
(read more: National Geo)
photo: Christian Ziegler, National Geo

Why Fly? Flightless Bird Mystery Solved, Say Evolutionary Scientists

Ostriches, emus, moas, and other flightless birds of the world evolved flightlessness separately.

by Allison Fromme

Large flightless birds are scattered across all but one of the world’s southern continents. Since Darwin’s era, people have wondered: How are they related?

Ostriches, emus, cassowaries, rheas, and kiwis can’t fly. Unlike most birds, their flat breastbones lack the keel that anchors the strong pectoral muscles required for flight. Their puny wings can’t possibly lift their heavy bodies off the ground. These flightless birds, called ratites, are clearly different from other avian species.

Darwin noticed, and he predicted that ratites were related to each other. His contemporary, Thomas Huxley, found another commonality among them: The arrangement of bones in the roofs of their mouths appeared more reptile-like than that of other birds.

At about the same time, another biologist, Richard Owen, assembled the remains of a giant ostrich-like fossil skeleton, the first extinct moa known to the western world. But a pesky detail puzzled Huxley: Small, ground-dwelling South American tinamous didn’t seem to fit neatly with the ratites or other birds…

(read more: National Geo)

photo: Christian Ziegler, National Geo

Scientists uncover new marine mammal genus, represented by single endangered species 
by Jeremy Hance
This is the story of three seals: the Caribbean, the Hawaiian, and the Mediterranean monk seals. Once numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the Caribbean monk seal was a hugely abundant marine mammal found across the Caribbean, and even recorded by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage, whose men killed several for food. Less than 500 years later the species would be extinct—due to overhunting. But scientists have long wondered how the extinct Caribbean monk seal was related to other monk seals: was it more closely related to the Mediterranean species or the Hawaiian one? Now, researchers have an answer and a new seal genus, as well. 
"Our paper is the first to firmly solve this riddle, both by producing and analyzing the first DNA evidence from the Caribbean monk seal, and by examining the anatomy of large series of monk seal specimens in museums, mostly from the Smithsonian," co-author and mammalogist Kristofer Helgen with the Smithsonian Institute told mongabay.com. "The answer is that the Caribbean monk seal is most closely related to the Hawaiian monk seal, demonstrating that the New World monk seals form a group to the exclusion of the Mediterranean monk seal." 
In fact, the New World monk seals are so genetically distinct—and physically different—from the Mediterranean monk seal that the researchers have proposed a new genus for the Caribbean and Hawaiian species: Neomonachus. Prior to this all three species were listed under one genus, Monachus…
(read more: MongaBay)
illustration of Caribbean Monk Seal by Peter Shouten

Scientists uncover new marine mammal genus, represented by single endangered species

by Jeremy Hance

This is the story of three seals: the Caribbean, the Hawaiian, and the Mediterranean monk seals. Once numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the Caribbean monk seal was a hugely abundant marine mammal found across the Caribbean, and even recorded by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage, whose men killed several for food. Less than 500 years later the species would be extinct—due to overhunting. But scientists have long wondered how the extinct Caribbean monk seal was related to other monk seals: was it more closely related to the Mediterranean species or the Hawaiian one? Now, researchers have an answer and a new seal genus, as well. 

"Our paper is the first to firmly solve this riddle, both by producing and analyzing the first DNA evidence from the Caribbean monk seal, and by examining the anatomy of large series of monk seal specimens in museums, mostly from the Smithsonian," co-author and mammalogist Kristofer Helgen with the Smithsonian Institute told mongabay.com. "The answer is that the Caribbean monk seal is most closely related to the Hawaiian monk seal, demonstrating that the New World monk seals form a group to the exclusion of the Mediterranean monk seal." 

In fact, the New World monk seals are so genetically distinct—and physically different—from the Mediterranean monk seal that the researchers have proposed a new genus for the Caribbean and Hawaiian species: Neomonachus. Prior to this all three species were listed under one genus, Monachus…

(read more: MongaBay)

illustration of Caribbean Monk Seal by Peter Shouten

Researchers Use DNA to Learn about Tapir Behavior
by Jeremy Hance
apirs are notoriously hard to find and directly observe in the wild. Because of this, little is known about how species behave in their natural habitats. But in a study published in PLOS ONE, researchers found a way around this complication by using tapir DNA to shed light on their behavior.
The team sequenced and compared the DNA of individual tapirs to determine how related they were to one another, and in so doing, determine how far they dispersed throughout their habitat. This study marked the first time this specific technique had been used in the Amazon region…
(read more: MongaBay)
photograph by Jeremy Hance

Researchers Use DNA to Learn about Tapir Behavior

by Jeremy Hance

apirs are notoriously hard to find and directly observe in the wild. Because of this, little is known about how species behave in their natural habitats. But in a study published in PLOS ONE, researchers found a way around this complication by using tapir DNA to shed light on their behavior.

The team sequenced and compared the DNA of individual tapirs to determine how related they were to one another, and in so doing, determine how far they dispersed throughout their habitat. This study marked the first time this specific technique had been used in the Amazon region…

(read more: MongaBay)

photograph by Jeremy Hance

Hybrid Dolphin Gives Scientists Rare Window into Evolution
by Zoë Shribman
You’ve seen DNA analysis on every forensic criminology show on TV. Normally, it leads detectives to the killer, but in another case—this one on the open ocean—it has led scientists to a hybrid dolphin.
The clymene dolphin (Stenella clymene) is something of a biological riddle. Though these animals were first declared their own species by the American Society of Mammalogists in 1981, they were originally thought to be a subspecies of the spinner dolphin (S. longirostris), despite their similarities to the striped dolphin (S. coeruleoalba). DNA analysis has solved the puzzle, conclusively stating that clymene dolphins are a distinct species.
In her study, Ana Amaral at the University of Lisbon collected both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA from 72 individuals of the three similar dolphin species. Mitochondrial DNA is passed on through the organism’s mother, whereas nuclear DNA comes from both parents. Here, analyzing both was key. In her analysis, Amaral found that the DNA from the nucleus was most similar to the spinner dolphin, while DNA from the mitochondria was most similar to the striped dolphin…
(read more: PBS - NovaNext)                        (photo: NOAA)

Hybrid Dolphin Gives Scientists Rare Window into Evolution

by Zoë Shribman

You’ve seen DNA analysis on every forensic criminology show on TV. Normally, it leads detectives to the killer, but in another case—this one on the open ocean—it has led scientists to a hybrid dolphin.

The clymene dolphin (Stenella clymene) is something of a biological riddle. Though these animals were first declared their own species by the American Society of Mammalogists in 1981, they were originally thought to be a subspecies of the spinner dolphin (S. longirostris), despite their similarities to the striped dolphin (S. coeruleoalba). DNA analysis has solved the puzzle, conclusively stating that clymene dolphins are a distinct species.

In her study, Ana Amaral at the University of Lisbon collected both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA from 72 individuals of the three similar dolphin species. Mitochondrial DNA is passed on through the organism’s mother, whereas nuclear DNA comes from both parents. Here, analyzing both was key. In her analysis, Amaral found that the DNA from the nucleus was most similar to the spinner dolphin, while DNA from the mitochondria was most similar to the striped dolphin…

(read more: PBS - NovaNext)                        (photo: NOAA)

Mystery of bottle gourd migration to Americas solved:  (Phys.org) —A team with members from several institutions in the U.S. has finally set to rest the mystery of how the bottle gourd found its way to the Americas. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team explains that new DNA analysis has revealed that the bottle gourd made its way to South America by floating over from Africa.
For several decades, scientists have been wrangling with the mystery of how the bottle gourd, which is believed to be native to Africa and Asia, made its way to the Americas where it grew wild approximately 10,000 years prior to being domesticated. Some believed the mystery had been solved when a research team using DNA techniques reported back in 2005 that the bottle gourd in the Americas had Asian DNA, suggesting the gourd made its way to North America by early people carrying it across the land bridge that existed between what is now Alaska and Russia.
In this new effort, the research team contradicts that earlier finding claiming that newer DNA analysis tools show that gourds in the Americas actually have African DNA, which suggests they made it to the New World by floating across the ocean…
(read more: http://phy.so/311323692) (Image: Wikipedia.)

Mystery of bottle gourd migration to Americas solved: 

(Phys.org) —A team with members from several institutions in the U.S. has finally set to rest the mystery of how the bottle gourd found its way to the Americas. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team explains that new DNA analysis has revealed that the bottle gourd made its way to South America by floating over from Africa.

For several decades, scientists have been wrangling with the mystery of how the bottle gourd, which is believed to be native to Africa and Asia, made its way to the Americas where it grew wild approximately 10,000 years prior to being domesticated. Some believed the mystery had been solved when a research team using DNA techniques reported back in 2005 that the bottle gourd in the Americas had Asian DNA, suggesting the gourd made its way to North America by early people carrying it across the land bridge that existed between what is now Alaska and Russia.

In this new effort, the research team contradicts that earlier finding claiming that newer DNA analysis tools show that gourds in the Americas actually have African DNA, which suggests they made it to the New World by floating across the ocean…

(read more: http://phy.so/311323692)

(Image: Wikipedia.)

Budding Clues to Plant Evolution The Amborella Genome Project has provided the first-ever genome sequence of the Amborella trichopoda—a small shrub representing the sole survivor of an ancient lineage that traces back to the last common ancestor of all flowering plants. 
The DNA sequence provides insight into the evolution behind the sudden proliferation of flowers on Earth millions of years ago, solving what Darwin calls “an abominable mystery.” According to the researchers, there is conclusive evidence that 200 million years ago, the ancestor of all flowering plants evolved following a “genome doubling event” in which it continually duplicated its genes. Some duplicated genes were lost over time while others took on new functions like helping develop floral organs. To learn more, read the Research Article here: http://bit.ly/1drMhXq or a related Perspective: http://bit.ly/1drMdHi 
You can also read two related papers on the mitochondrial DNA of Amborella (http://bit.ly/1drMlGO) and on the technique used to sequence the plant’s genomes (http://bit.ly/1drMqu8). Image Credit: Scott Zona/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons

Budding Clues to Plant Evolution

The Amborella Genome Project has provided the first-ever genome sequence of the Amborella trichopoda—a small shrub representing the sole survivor of an ancient lineage that traces back to the last common ancestor of all flowering plants.

The DNA sequence provides insight into the evolution behind the sudden proliferation of flowers on Earth millions of years ago, solving what Darwin calls “an abominable mystery.” According to the researchers, there is conclusive evidence that 200 million years ago, the ancestor of all flowering plants evolved following a “genome doubling event” in which it continually duplicated its genes. Some duplicated genes were lost over time while others took on new functions like helping develop floral organs.

To learn more, read the Research Article here: http://bit.ly/1drMhXq or a related Perspective: http://bit.ly/1drMdHi

You can also read two related papers on the mitochondrial DNA of Amborella (http://bit.ly/1drMlGO) and on the technique used to sequence the plant’s genomes (http://bit.ly/1drMqu8).

Image Credit: Scott Zona/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons

New Study Brings Scientists Closer to the Origin of RNA (Phys.org) — One of the biggest questions in science is how life arose from the chemical soup that existed on early Earth. One theory is that RNA, a close relative of DNA, was the first genetic molecule to arise around 4 billion years ago, but in a primitive form that later evolved into the RNA and DNA molecules that we have in life today. New research shows one way this chain of events might have started.
Chemists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have shown how molecules that may have been present on early Earth can self-assemble into structures that could represent a starting point of RNA. The spontaneous formation of RNA building blocks is seen as a crucial step in the origin of life, but one that scientists have struggled with for decades…
(read more)Image: Nicholas Hud

New Study Brings Scientists Closer to the Origin of RNA

(Phys.org) — One of the biggest questions in science is how life arose from the chemical soup that existed on early Earth. One theory is that RNA, a close relative of DNA, was the first genetic molecule to arise around 4 billion years ago, but in a primitive form that later evolved into the RNA and DNA molecules that we have in life today. New research shows one way this chain of events might have started.

Chemists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have shown how molecules that may have been present on early Earth can self-assemble into structures that could represent a starting point of RNA. The spontaneous formation of RNA building blocks is seen as a crucial step in the origin of life, but one that scientists have struggled with for decades…

(read more)

Image: Nicholas Hud

Old Dogs Teach a New Lesson About Canine Origins
Complete Mitochondrial Genomes of Ancient Canids Suggest a European Origin of Domestic Dogs
by Elizabeth Pennisi
The story of dogs began thousands of years ago, when gray wolves began sidling out of the shadows and into the company of humans. There’s little argument about that scenario—but plenty about when and where it took place, with the leading theories suggesting dogs were domesticated either in the Middle East or in East Asia. A study on page 871 draws on a new source of evidence, DNA from the fossils of ancient dogs and wolves, and comes to a third conclusion: Dogs originated in Europe, from a now-extinct branch of gray wolves.
The dogfight goes on. Based on the new study, “you will be hard-pressed to come up with a narrative about how dogs were not domesticated in Europe,” says Greger Larson, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom.
But some fans of the East Asia theory argue that the DNA examined, from cell organelles called mitochondria, cannot tell the whole story and that the analysis may be skewed because the ancient samples are primarily from Europe. “Critical observers will need more than mitochondrial DNA to be convinced,” says Stephen O’Brien, a geneticist at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, who says he is in neither dog origin camp…
(read more: Science/AAAS)
photo: DEL BASTON/CENTER FOR AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY

Old Dogs Teach a New Lesson About Canine Origins

Complete Mitochondrial Genomes of Ancient Canids Suggest a European Origin of Domestic Dogs

by Elizabeth Pennisi

The story of dogs began thousands of years ago, when gray wolves began sidling out of the shadows and into the company of humans. There’s little argument about that scenario—but plenty about when and where it took place, with the leading theories suggesting dogs were domesticated either in the Middle East or in East Asia. A study on page 871 draws on a new source of evidence, DNA from the fossils of ancient dogs and wolves, and comes to a third conclusion: Dogs originated in Europe, from a now-extinct branch of gray wolves.

The dogfight goes on. Based on the new study, “you will be hard-pressed to come up with a narrative about how dogs were not domesticated in Europe,” says Greger Larson, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom.

But some fans of the East Asia theory argue that the DNA examined, from cell organelles called mitochondria, cannot tell the whole story and that the analysis may be skewed because the ancient samples are primarily from Europe. “Critical observers will need more than mitochondrial DNA to be convinced,” says Stephen O’Brien, a geneticist at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, who says he is in neither dog origin camp…

(read more: Science/AAAS)

photo: DEL BASTON/CENTER FOR AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY

How One Warbler Learned to Be a Better Migrant
by Daisy Yuhas
ome of us are born with wanderlust, but what exactly spurs a bird to journey thousands of miles each year? The answer is in part genetic, and a recent study of yellow-rumped warblers in the journal Evolution reveals how changes over generations could improve a bird’s abilities to become a master, long-distance flyer.
The research, conducted by zoologists and physiologists at the University of British Columbia, began with a genetic puzzle. There are four different groups of yellow-rumped warblers, each distinct in behavior and appearance: the Goldman’s, myrtle, Audubon’s, and black-fronted. Their genes, however, tell a different story.

Examining DNA obtained from the nucleus of these birds’ blood cells revealed that the Audubon’s and black-fronted warblers were indistinguishable. In other words, these birds are so closely related that, despite different appearances and the fact that Audubon’s migrate whereas black-fronteds don’t, these birds can’t be recognized as different species…
(read more: Audubon Magazine)
photo by  Pterzian/commons.wikimedia commons

How One Warbler Learned to Be a Better Migrant

by Daisy Yuhas

ome of us are born with wanderlust, but what exactly spurs a bird to journey thousands of miles each year? The answer is in part genetic, and a recent study of yellow-rumped warblers in the journal Evolution reveals how changes over generations could improve a bird’s abilities to become a master, long-distance flyer.

The research, conducted by zoologists and physiologists at the University of British Columbia, began with a genetic puzzle. There are four different groups of yellow-rumped warblers, each distinct in behavior and appearance: the Goldman’s, myrtle, Audubon’s, and black-fronted. Their genes, however, tell a different story.

Examining DNA obtained from the nucleus of these birds’ blood cells revealed that the Audubon’s and black-fronted warblers were indistinguishable. In other words, these birds are so closely related that, despite different appearances and the fact that Audubon’s migrate whereas black-fronteds don’t, these birds can’t be recognized as different species…

(read more: Audubon Magazine)

photo by  Pterzian/commons.wikimedia commons

The Race to Save the Orange by Altering Its DNA

by Amy Harmon

The disease that sours oranges and leaves them half green, already ravaging citrus crops across the world, had reached the state’s storied groves. Mr. Kress, the president of Southern Gardens Citrus, in charge of two and a half million orange trees and a factory that squeezes juice for Tropicana and Florida’s Natural, sat in silence for several long moments.

“O.K.,” he said finally on that fall day in 2005, “let’s make a plan.”

In the years that followed, he and the 8,000 other Florida growers who supply most of the nation’s orange juice poured everything they had into fighting the disease they call citrus greening.

To slow the spread of the bacterium that causes the scourge, they chopped down hundreds of thousands of infected trees and sprayed an expanding array of pesticides on the winged insect that carries it. But the contagion could not be contained.

They scoured Central Florida’s half-million acres of emerald groves and sent search parties around the world to find a naturally immune tree that could serve as a new progenitor for a crop that has thrived in the state since its arrival, it is said, with Ponce de León. But such a tree did not exist…

(read more: NY Times)                

photos: Richard Perry/The New York Times

What’s Swimming In The River? Just Look For DNA
by Richard Harris
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’)…
(read more/listen to story: NPR)
Photo by Robert J. Erwin

What’s Swimming In The River? Just Look For DNA

by Richard Harris

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’)…

(read more/listen to story: NPR)

Photo by Robert J. Erwin