Tracking animals through e-DNA

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Tracking animals through e-DNA

  • According to some studies, DNA floating in the air (e-DNA) can boost biodiversity conservation efforts across the world.


  • Researchers have independently shown that environmental DNA (e-DNA) have the potential to identify and monitor terrestrial animals.
  • Animals shed DNA through their breath, saliva, fur, or feces into the environment and these samples are called e-DNA.
  • Airborne e-DNA sampling is a biomonitoring method that is rising in popularity among biologists and conservationists as it provides abundant information.


  • It will help in understanding the composition of animal communities
  • It will also detect the spread of non-native species.
  • This method will be tuned with the current techniques to monitor endangered species.
  • Methods currently used by biologists to observe animals in person or by picking up DNA from animals’ footprints or feces, demand extensive fieldwork.
  • Spotting animals can be challenging, especially if they inhabit inaccessible habitats.
  • It can help in tracking long-distance migratory birds and other birds’ flying patterns.
  • It can also capture DNA from smaller animals including insects.

Related Initiatives

  • Global EDNA Project by UNESCO
  • It was launched to study the vulnerability of species to climate change at Marine World Heritage Sites in October 2021.


  • DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in organisms that contains the biological instructions for building and maintaining them.
  • The chemical structure of DNA is the same for all organisms, but differences exist in the order of the DNA building blocks, known as base pairs.
  • Unique sequences of base pairs, particularly repeating patterns, provide a means to identify species, populations, and even individuals.


  • Environmental DNA (e-DNA) is nuclear or mitochondrial DNA that is released from an organism into the environment.
  • Sources of e-DNA include secreted feces, mucous, and gametes; shed skin and hair; and carcasses.
  • e-DNA can be detected in cellular or extracellular (dissolved DNA) form.
  • In aquatic environments, eDNA is diluted and distributed by currents and other hydrological processes, but it only lasts about 7–21 days, depending on environmental conditions.
  • Exposure to UVB radiation, acidity, heat, and endo- and exonucleases can degrade e-DNA.