Scientists search for endangered Yangtze softshell turtle with eDNA

By on March 9, 2015
Yangtze giant softshell turtle.

Researchers at Washington State University are using environmental DNA to help save the world’s largest freshwater turtle from extinction, according to a release from the school. Their study will focus on the Yangtze softshell, the world’s largest species of freshwater turtle.

Environmental DNA is a useful tool for the investigation, scientists say, because it allows them to see if an animal is there without having to find it.

“If you are looking for a cougar or some other large animal in a patch of trees, you can hear it and find other signs it is there,” said Caren Goldberg, assistant professor in Washington State’s School of Environment, in a statement. “But I can stand next to a wetland and wonder whether there is an endangered salamander there and not be able to tell for sure.”

Tracking eDNA can solve that problem because researchers only need to collect water samples to see if a Yangtze turtle is there. The samples are then processed through cellulose nitrate filters to separate out bits of DNA and then analyzed in a lab to confirm if the DNA matches up to one of the endangered softshells.

Top image: Yangtze giant softshell turtle.

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