Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bear Saliva Found in Salmon Carcasses Turn Out to be a Goldmine of Information

Thousands of salmon carcasses can be found by streams and rivers all over Alaska during spring and summer. This is because salmon act as a very important food source for brown bears living in the area, and if the salmon are in great abundance the bears tend to only eat specific parts of the fish, such as the brain, leaving the rest behind. This is fortunate to wildlife and population biologists, as it has been recently discovered that the leftover drool found on these carcasses are a great source of genetic material. This data gathered from the drool provides an excellent source of DNA from the bears which in turn contains a great amount of information allowing biologists to identify individual bears living in the area based solely on their saliva. This is very promising as it could greatly benefit the research conducted on bear population and health.

 Before drool was discovered as a means to gather genetic material from bears, the data was originally gathered based on visual observations and analysis of fecal samples. It has also been proven that not only is this new method more efficient, it costs less too. This was tested by comparing the new method to to the old one by examining 156 salmon carcasses and comparing the data from that to the data collected from 272 fecal samples. Results showed that they were able to get genotypes for 55% of the salmon carcasses compared to only the 34% gathered from fecal samples. The saliva method also cost around $200 less per bear than fecal samples  did..

This new method seems like a great advancement that will allow for more detailed research to be conducted on brown bears. I would like to see if it is possible to modify this technique to better study other organisms as well, and if so what kind of effect this will have on the field as a whole.

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