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Tracking Bugs Through the Air

A Lund University-led team has used environmental DNA captured from the air to track insects, according to the Guardian.

Such eDNA has previously been used to trace fish and amphibians as well as bugs as they move through water. But, according to the Guardian, researchers led by Lund's Fabian Roger have now used air samples to trace insects.

In work that is to be presented at the British Ecological Society's Ecology Across Borders conference, Roger and his colleagues collected air samples from two sites in Sweden for eDNA analysis, which they then compared to traditional insect monitoring approaches. According to the Guardian, the researchers found that eDNA analysis identified 87 different insect species, though the traditional approaches generally uncovered more.

Still, the researchers note in a press release that the eDNA approach detected species the traditional approaches could not. For instance, light traps identified 48 moth species and eDNA uncovered nine moth species, but only four species overlapped between the two.

"We are at the very beginning of exploring airborne environmental DNA for anything other than bacteria, pollen, or spores — and even there we have only scratched the surface," Roger tells the Guardian. "Just because it doesn't work perfectly out of the box doesn't mean it won't work ever, and the potential is huge."