Washington, October 9 (ANI): In a new study, scientists used advances in DNA sequencing technology to determine that the bug splatter on a car's windshield may be a treasure trove of genomic biodiversity.
The researchers used metagenomics, an approach applying DNA-sequencing technology directly to environmental samples.
Metagenomics has traditionally been applied to microbial samples, but investigators led by Anton Nekrutenko of Penn State University believe that this tactic can be utilized in studies of biodiversity of higher organisms.
"Metagenomics is still a 'soft science', where precise identification of species abundance in complex samples is very, very challenging," said Nekrutenko.
To meet this challenge, the group developed the Galaxy metagenomic pipeline, a powerful analysis approach that incorporates all steps of analysis, from handling raw sequencing data to the drawing of evolutionary trees.
Nekrutenko and colleagues then put the pipeline to the test by conducting one of the first metagenomics studies of eukaryotic biodiversity.
The group set out to collect a metagenomic sample with the goal of estimating how many species of insects resides in our immediate surroundings.
To gather genetic material, they utilized a simple but effective collection method - the front bumper of a moving vehicle.
Two samples of bug splatter were collected, the first after driving from Pennsylvania to Connecticut, and the second after traveling from Maine to New Brunswick, Canada.
After sequencing DNA from the splatter samples, the research team used their metagenomic pipeline to address the question of how many species inhabit the regions sampled on the trips.
The group accurately identified sequences corresponding to a number of insect taxa amongst other sequences, primarily matching bacteria.
Furthermore, they found significant differences in diversity between the first and second trips.
The researchers note that there are likely many other insect species that went undetected, as the diversity of organisms represented in sequence databases is currently limited.
However, with advances in sequencing technology rapidly driving down costs, the genomic catalog of species diversity is expected to grow rapidly. (ANI)