In Science this week, an international team of researchers reports on how the analysis of DNA from illegal ivory in Africa reveals two primary hotspots of elephant poaching. The investigators first sampled DNA from the dung of 1,350 elephants from 71 different locations across 29 African countries, creating a genetic map of elephant populations. They then analyzed DNA in seizures of ivory and assigned them to different specific populations. The results show that about 96 percent of seized ivory originated from four geographical areas and that after 2007, the majority of ivory seized came from just two areas. The researchers suggest that their approach may be used by law enforcement to prevent poaching of elephants and, potentially, other protected animals. GenomeWeb has more on this here.
And in Science Advances, European scientists present a study examining the diversity of DNA viruses in six Arctic lakes in Norway, which boast ecosystems virtually untouched by human activity. Using next-generation sequencing, the group discovered a number of previously unknown Arctic freshwater DNA viruses, which infect surrounding bacteria algae and protozoa. Most viral samples had small genomes, compared to the relatively large genomes of ocean viruses. Additionally, viruses from the same freshwater environments were genetically similar to each other, although there was some genetic overlap with Arctic Ocean viruses, suggesting that a connection between the Arctic viromes and Antarctic freshwater viromes despite their physical separation.