Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Traces of taxa

Locating rare and often endangered jungle animals takes time, staffing, and funding. Remote cameras have eased conservationists' needs, but there is an even better solution on the horizon. It started in the mountains of Vietnam where researchers extracted the recently sucked blood of terrestrial leeches, analyzed the DNA of the animals they had been feeding on, and identified a number of rarely-seen mammals. Now a team of scientists has done the same in Madagascar and Cote d'Ivoire with blow flies and flesh flies, tracking both pygmy hippopotamuses and mouse lemurs (PICTURED ABOVE). Some mammals are more difficult to identify down to the species level, and they hope to improve the technology to include birds, reptiles, and amphibians. "The main advantage in using flies is their worldwide distribution," says team leader Sebastien Calvignac-Spencer of the Robert Koch Institute. That and the fact that not only do they feast on blood, but poop!

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