Newswise — STONY BROOK, N.Y., June 11, 2018 –The days of searching the oceans around the world to find and study rare and endangered marine animals are not over. However, an emerging tool that can be used with just a sample of seawater may help scientists learn more about rare marine life than ever before. According to Ellen Pikitch, PhD, of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), this 21st Century tool that holds such promise is eDNA analysis. Her explanation will be published in a perspectives piece on June 15 in Science.
In the ocean, eDNA can be obtained from seawater that contains sloughed skin cells, scales, secretions and other matter from marine organisms. The method has been shown to reliably and non-invasively detect rare, elusive and difficult-to-study species such as threatened whales, sharks and dolphins.
In the Science perspectives piece, Professor Pikitch explains how eDNA is being used to detect species presence and quantify the abundance of species. She compares the method head on with other techniques that are being used to study rare marine species, many of which are less sensitive, more labor-intensive, involve capture of animals and destruction of their habitat.
Professor Pikitch says that “eDNA outperforms traditional research methods used to study marine species in many respects. Given its advantages, eDNA is likely to quickly become the method of choice for detecting rare and elusive marine species.”
In addition, eDNA methodology is improving rapidly and becoming more cost-effective.
“Both as a complement to prevailing methods and on its own merits, eDNA holds great promise for accelerating our understanding of ocean life,” she concludes.
About Stony Brook University Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become a flagship as one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with more than 26,000 students and 2,600 faculty members, and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 50 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University is a driving force in the region’s economy, generating nearly 60,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $4.6 billion. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.
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Science, June 15. 2018