Korean scientists have developed the world’s first “DNA ID card” that can distinguish mallards from spot-billed ducks, a difference that cannot be detected by traditional genetic tests. The research results are expected to be used to identify the host species of avian influenza or AI.
The Ministry of Environment said on Monday that the National Institute of Biological Resources (NIBR) developed a DNA ID card (DNA marker) that can tell the two birds apart. A DNA marker is a gene sequence that can be used to identify species and their origin.
Researchers at the NIBR compared and analyzed the genes of 16 spot-billed ducks and 30 mallards and found a clue that can separate them. It is a sequence of 49 base pairs that mallards have and spot-billed ducks do not.
The research results are expected to be used for AI host species identification. The investigation into avian influenza infections involve not only fecal samples and genetic analysis to identify host species as fecal samples only tell us which virus it is.
Both birds are on the list of species to be investigated when the virus occurs. The NIBR said the marker can also be utilized when researchers study genetic characteristics and the bird ecology with trace samples such as feathers and feces. Trace samples are used in research due to the difficulty to capture birds.