• Scientists have been using genetics to study wild animals for several years now.
  • However, a new genetic method developed by a team, including scientists from Bengaluru’s National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), hopes to make studying as well as conserving wild species quicker, easier and cost-effective by deriving information from animal sources containing extremely low-quality DNA — including faeces and cooked meat.
  • Their method, described in the study published in the international journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, relies on identifying multiple, short portions of DNA segments in a single experiment (a ‘multiplex PCR’), followed by ‘next-generation sequencing’, in which multiple fragments of DNA can be decoded simultaneously, and several times, in an automated process.
  • They then decoded between 60 to 100 single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs, one of the most common types of change seen in genetic material, in these samples.
  • The team was also able to identify the geographic regions these individuals belonged to.
  • Apart from using this for animal monitoring, it could also potentially be used to obtain intelligence on wildlife trade.
  • Testing several hundred samples simultaneously and decoding up to 1000 SNPs per sample would cost as low as $5 (less than ₹350).
  • The biggest advantage is that this would take just five days while older methods take at least a month.