World’s First Technique to Identify Fish Species from a Bucket of Water
July 23, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo
The Okinawa Churashima Foundation in Motobu Town collaborated with Chief Researcher Masaki Miya from the Natural History Museum and Institute, Chiba and five university research groups to develop a technique to identify what species of fish are living in specific areas by analyzing one bucket with a mix of river and ocean water. The group conducted the experiment at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, and the outcome is the development of a world-first technique to identify multiple species by just analyzing water. The new technique is expected to contribute to the protection of species, the discovery of new species, and to accumulating “big data” of marine species.
The group looked at the “environmental DNA” found in mucus discharged from the species’ body and feces floating in the water. The group used a Next Generation Sequencer that analyzes DNA to identify fish species from the environmental DNA.
The experiment includes four fish tanks at the aquarium and species living in the reef area around Bise, Motobu Town. Out of the 180 species from the aquarium, the experiment identified 168 species, approximately 90 percent of the sample.
It takes two days at the earliest to identify 5,000 species with the analyzer, which can analyze 1,000 samples at one time.
While the conventional method can only analyze one sample at a time, the new method enables researchers to analyze multiple samples at one time. Although this research only looks at fish, it is possible to apply the method to other animals, including those on land. The method is also expected to be used for research into rare species such as Yambarukuina and new species.
“If we can analyze oceans across the globe, we will be able to create big data. That will allow us to study chronological existence of species, not only what exists today,” said Miya.
(English translation by T&CT and Sayaka Sakuma)
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