Researchers have found traces of more than 400 different species of insects in a single tea bag using a new technique they have developed.
The study’s lead researcher, Professor Henrik Krehenwinkel, of the University of Trier in the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said: “We examined commercially available teas and herbs and found DNA from as many as 400 different insect species in a single tea bag. . “
The biogeographer and his team used the new method they devised to study a tea bag, looking for traces of insect DNA.
The university said in a statement that Krehenwinkel and his team “presented a method by which meaningful environmental DNA can be obtained from dried plants and evaluated.”
Their results are promising and could be very helpful, the statement said, not least because “this group of animals is of enormous importance to the balance of the global ecosystem.”
The statement also said: “The ability to collect eDNA almost anywhere in the environment – in water, in the soil or on plants – has made huge strides in biomonitoring, the observation and surveillance of animals and plants in recent years.
“Until now, insects had to be caught in traps.
“Not only does this practice have the disadvantage that the animals die, but usually only a part of the insects that come into contact with a plant are caught and therefore included in the analysis.”
Krehenwinkel said: “Now we can also prove which insects live in the plant.”
The method he and his team have come up with is innovative because “eDNA is not, as is usually the case, taken from the surfaces of the plants, but from ground, dried plant material. On the plant coat, eDNA is not available for long because it is broken down by UV light or washed away by rain. Another limitation is that this mainly takes into account insects on the surface of the plant.”
The method of observing how insects and plants interact has been of interest to many other scientific endeavors and has also shown that the insect species associated with certain plant species also disappear – and vice versa.
But thanks to this new eDNA method, experts were able to collect new data about the cause.
The agricultural industry could also benefit from this research, the statement said, as it would help identify pests and insects that can spread by hiding in plants.
“We are currently working on simplifying the protocol of our procedure so that school classes can use it. In time this could lead to a citizen science project in which citizens conduct research in the field of biodiversity,” Krehenwinkel said.
The university added: “Finally, the procedure could also become a criminalistic matter. eDNA can make reliable statements about the true geographic origin of plants. In this way, customs could determine whether imported types of tea actually come from the mentioned countries What is possible with tea, also applies to other plants – medicines, for example.”
The study is published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Biology Letterspublished by the Royal Society in the UK
It was published on June 15 under the title “The bug in a teacup-monitoring arthropod-plant associations with environment DNA from dried plant material”, and is written by Henrik Krehenwinkel, Sven Weber, Sven Kuenzel and Susan R. Kennedy.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.