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Fishing for mammals: how DNA from rivers could revolutionise mammal detection on land

Scientists from the University of Salford have identified that DNA collected from river water is a new and effective way of monitoring the entire community of mammals on the landscape. The findings are published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Rivers are conveyor belts of organic material, which can include DNA shed from animals that have encountered water or that is washed into the river after rain for example. This DNA can be used to provide an immediate snapshot of the mammals present on the landscape.

“This could revolutionise how we monitor mammals,” explains mammalogist Dr Allan McDevitt of the University of Salford.

“We currently use many ways of detecting and monitoring mammals, from looking for signs such as footprints or faeces, to using camera traps to take photos of them over several weeks. Now, we may just simply need to collect a few bottles of water and take it to the laboratory and look at the DNA we find.” MORE

Header image: A captured water vole on author Joseph Drake’s arm during live-trapping sessions in Assynt, Scotland. Credit: Allan McDevitt.

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