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DNA test hope to save rare newts.

A NEW technique analysing DNA traces in water offers hope for the future protection of rare and endangered aquatic species, a wildlife charity has said.

The Defra-funded research project has discovered that monitoring levels of environmental DNA (eDNA) in water is an accurate and rapid method for detecting the great crested newt.

Under the new technique, traces of eDNA - which is released by plants and animals from their skin, faeces, mucus, hair, eggs and sperm, or when they die - can be used to monitor freshwater species living in a pond or stream through a simple water sample.

The Freshwater Habitats Trust said the new method makes it much easier and quicker to find the newts in ponds and streams and brings potential benefits for developers who often have to provide planners with an accurate assessment of great crested newt populations on proposed development sites.

The research - led by the trust with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, the University of Kent and genetics company SpyGen - has been hailed as an important breakthrough. Laboratory testing showed that the eDNA techniques correctly detected newts in 91% of the ponds.

A more detailed study of 35 ponds in Hampshire and North Wales looked at how well the eDNA test detected newts over time. These intensive studies showed that a single water sample taken at any time during the newt breeding season of late April to June is almost certain to detect newts when present.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 1, 2014
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