Flesh-Eating Fies Map Forest Biodiversity
The blowflies and flesh flies that settle on dead animals aren’t just feasting on the carrion â€” they’re sampling their DNA. Scientists in Germany have now shown that this DNA persists for long enough to be sequenced, providing a quick and cost-effective snapshot of mammal diversity in otherwise inaccessible rainforests.
Researchers stumbled on the grisly cataloguing technique while studying a form of anthrax that kills chimpanzees in CÃ´te d’Ivoire. They started sampling flies to see whether the insects could harbor the anthrax bacterium after feasting on infected bodies, but soon realized â€œthat detecting mammal DNA from flies could also be an extremely cool tool for assessing biodiversityâ€, says team leader SÃ©bastien Calvignac-Spencer.