June 7, 2013
Kangaroo Poo DNA Test Aids In Conservation Efforts
April Flowers for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
A simple and cost effective DNA test has been developed by researchers at the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) and Environment Institute to identify kangaroo species from their droppings. This will boost the ability to manage and conserve kangaroo populations.
DNA extracted from hundreds of droppings collected across north-eastern Australia was used to develop the test, according to a paper published in the journal Wildlife Research.
The researchers established a unique pattern of DNA fragmentation for each species. This eliminated the need for gene sequencing, which is costly, more time-consuming and requires sophisticated laboratory equipment.
The test has already been successful in identifying a number of kangaroo species appearing well outside their known range. This has important implications for conservation efforts and population management.
"The more information on the distribution of species, the better management decisions can be made, particularly in gauging potential land-use and climate change impacts on biodiversity," says PhD student Jessica Wadley.
"Despite their large size, kangaroos and wallabies are surprisingly difficult to see and count reliably. Collecting droppings, or scats, provides a relatively simple and easy way to estimate the presence or absence of a species. But in this area of Queensland, where there were eight possible kangaroos and wallaby species with overlapping ranges, it's difficult to correctly identify which species is leaving which scat."
The project, which has found five species outside of their known range, is part of a broader ecological study. One species, the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, was found nearly 250 miles from its home range.
Dr. Damien Fordham, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Environment Institute, says, "The test also allowed us to identify samples from the antilopine wallaroo, a species that is threatened by climate change. We're carrying out more detailed genetic studies relating to the factors that influence its distribution."
"The test could also be used to rapidly and cheaply identify the source of kangaroo meat and products to detect illegal hunting of protected species," commented Associate Professor Jeremy Austin, Deputy Director of ACAD.