Longest-ever eDNA study offers important insights into ocean health

phys.org | 2/12/2019 | Staff
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Tiny genetic 'breadcrumbs' left behind by marine organisms offer unprecedented insights into ocean biodiversity and how it changes over time and in response to our changing climate, new research at Curtin University, in collaboration with CSIRO, has revealed.

Researchers developed new environmental DNA (eDNA) biomonitoring methods using samples collected off the coast of Rottnest Island near Perth, Western Australia, as part of Australia's Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).

IMOS - Scientists - Seawater - Samples - Period

IMOS scientists collected and froze filtered seawater samples over a five-year period. These 'time capsules' provided a unique opportunity to study changes in our oceans and marine life that occur seasonally and in response to climate anomalies such as the marine heatwave that struck WA in 2011.

The study, published in journal PLOS Genetics, demonstrated how a zooplankton community – the larvae and eggs of fish – responds normally to seasonal change in contrast to heatwave conditions.

Study - Marine - EDNA - Study - Power

The study is the longest multi-year marine eDNA study yet conducted and showcases the power of eDNA technologies to monitor our ocean health.

Ph.D. student Tina Berry and Professor Michael Bunce, from Curtin's School of Molecular and Life Sciences, led the research team.

Series - Samples - Time - Period - DNA

"It is incredibly rare to find a series of samples from such a long time period that are also suitable for DNA analysis," Ms Berry said.

"The scientists at IMOS had the foresight to biobank a set of samples that allowed us to travel back through time and see how the ocean responded to a marine heatwave.

Work - Lab - DNA - Story - End

"After some hard work in the lab to isolate and sequence the DNA, a significant and revealing story appeared. The end result was a holistic window into our marine life...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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