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Drinking water as a source of environmental DNA for the detection of terrestrial wildlife species


Use of environmental DNA for wildlife species detection is a field of research that has seen rapid growth in recent years, however, the majority of research to date has been focused on aquatic species. Here, we propose and test a novel source for the detection of terrestrial species with environmental DNA: drinking water from watering holes and wildlife water developments. We hypothesized that when terrestrial animals drink from a water source, DNA from saliva and buccal cells is shed and can be isolated for species identification. We tested this hypothesis in a pilot study by filtering drinking water supplied to coyotes (Canis latrans) at a captive coyote research facility. DNA was successfully extracted from filters, amplified by the polymerase chain reaction, and sequenced, and sequences were positively identified as belonging to coyotes. We believe this environmental DNA based approach holds great promise for the detection of terrestrial species of conservation concern.

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We thank Eric M. Gese for the idea to test eDNA techniques on carnivore drinking water. We also thank Julie K. Young and Stacey Brummer from the NWRC-Predator Research Facility, and John Olson and Charles Hawkins for their support. This work was funded by NASA Biodiversity and Ecological Forecasting program Grant NNX14AC40G.

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Correspondence to Torrey W. Rodgers.

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Rodgers, T.W., Mock, K.E. Drinking water as a source of environmental DNA for the detection of terrestrial wildlife species. Conservation Genet Resour 7, 693–696 (2015).

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  • Canis latrans
  • Coyote
  • eDNA