Researchers were able to grab environmental DNA samples from the air and trace them back to the animals from which they originated, Gizmodo reports.
A team from Queen Mary University of London conducted a proof-of-concept study in which they collected air samples from within an artificial burrow home to naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus glaber) and from the wider room housing the burrow system that people also entered. As they report in PeerJ, the QMUL researchers extracted DNA from their samples and PCR amplified them before sequencing.
From this, they detected naked mole-rat DNA within both samples from the burrow and the wider room, as well as human DNA from the researchers themselves, suggesting that air sampling could be used to conduct biosurveys in hard-to-access areas like caves.
"I tend to think of it a bit like soup," first author Elizabeth Clare from QMUL tells Gizmodo. "We're in the soup, and it contains dust and pollen and bits of DNA floating around."