Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Leeches Are DNA Bloodhounds in the Jungle



ScienceDaily (Apr. 23, 2012) — Copenhagen Zoo and University of Copenhagen have in collaboration developed a new and revolutionary, yet simple and cheap, method for tracking mammals in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. They collect leeches from tropical jungles, which have been sucking blood from mammals, and subsequently analyse the blood for mammal DNA. By using this method, the researchers can get an overview of the biodiversity of the mammals without having to find them.

The groundbreaking results are to be published in the scientific journal Current Biology.

"It is not unusual that unknown mammals appear on local markets and end up in soup pots -- without scientists knowing of it. Therefore, the new method is important to obtain knowledge of what hides in the jungle -- regarding both known and unknown species. I am convinced that the new method is not only useful in Southeast Asia, but can be used in many other parts of the world where such leeches exist," explains Tom Gilbert, professor at the Centre for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen, and one of the initiators of the project together with Mads Bertelsen from Copenhagen Zoo.

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