Their stomach contents are to betray in the rainforest living mammals: Leech. Photo: Copenhagen Zoo
Reading Rainforests is the ideal place for animals to go unnoticed. An international research team has now found a simple way to at least prove that and where they live? based on the? stomach contents? from leeches. Only rarely have scientists seen the Asian antelope Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis). One of the few specimens caught hunters in Laos in 2010. The attempts of biologist Nicholas Wilkinson of the University in Cambridge to lure one of the animals in front of a camera failed.

Inspired by a study by a team led by Thomas Gildert of the University of Copenhagen, he used a much simpler and more effective method to track down the rare mammals: he collected leeches. Wilkinson had tested in another study to what extent the DNA of goats in the stomachs of leeches can be detected. The result showed: Over four months.

Hoping to gain further proof of the Saola, the scientists collected leeches in the Annamite Mountains in western Vietnam. And indeed, in 21 out of 25 leeches, researchers found DNA from rare mammals. These include the Vietnamese sun badger (Melogale cucphuongensis), the deer Annam-Muntjak (Muntiacus truongsonensis), a goat antelope, and the Annamite Streifenkaninchen (Nesolagus timminsi), which has only been known since 1996 and has so far escaped any imitation camera set up.

"We did not find a Saola, but the method is very promising, so we can certainly prove it soon? Just like any other mammal that lives in the rainforest, Nicholas Wilkinson is happy. Since only the blood of the last host is in the stomachs of the leeches, the DNA detection of the host also corresponds to a fairly accurate location, the researchers suspect
Team member Pierre Taberlet from Fourier University in Grenoble is also certain that the method will be used more frequently in the future: • Biodiversity-related studies will be carried out via DNA within ten years. Because for the most part, the scientists also use DNA fragments to assign them to a species. Looking to the future, this would mean sifting video footage no longer hours long, collecting tufts of fur or excrement or taking footprints. display

Thomas Gilbert (University of Copenhagen) et al .: Nature, doi: 10.1038 / 484424a © science.de? Marion Martin

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