Journal: PLOS Genetics
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Ocean health check via drifting DNA
© Monty Rakusen/Getty
DNA traces left behind by sea life have proven a handy tool to test how ocean ecosystems respond to rising temperatures.
The global oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, but the impacts of these changes on marine ecosystems are tricky to assess.
A team that included Curtin University researchers collected and froze seawater from a site off Western Australia each month for five years, including during a major marine heat wave.
The team analysed DNA traces in the samples to determine what sea life was present throughout the year. They noted a strong seasonality in the numbers of certain fish and crustaceans, such as a hermit crab that was most abundant in summer. They also identified a specific zooplankton species that was most sensitive to the heat wave.
Environmental DNA could help researchers monitor and predict the health of different ecosystems in response to climate change.
- PLoS Genetics 15, e1007943 (2019). doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007943