SOUTH BEND, Ind., Nov. 25 (UPI) — As part of a recent proof-of-concept study, scientists at the University of Notre Dame successfully sequenced DNA extracted from spider web samples.
In analyzing the DNA, researchers were able to correctly identify the spider who wove the threads and the insect victims who became the arachnid architect’s dinner.
Their successes are described in a new paper, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE.
For the experiment, scientists fed black widow spiders house crickets, and then took web samples and extracted mitochondrial DNA. Perfecting noninvasive DNA sampling could help researchers monitor and study a variety of species without interfering.
The noninvasive extraction and sequencing process could be tweaked for use in conservation research, pest control and biodiversity surveys. But the study’s authors say more field tests involving a wider array of species is necessary to confirm the broader potential of their early findings.
“Sticky spider webs are natural DNA samplers, trapping nearby insects and other things blowing in the wind,” study author Charles Cong Xu said in a press release. “We see potential for broad environmental monitoring because spiders build webs in so many places.”