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How will the 'molecular revolution' contribute to biological recording?

Lawson Handley, Lori



© 2015 The Linnean Society of London. Soaring throughput, plummeting costs, and increased sensitivity for assaying degraded or low-concentration DNA are driving a revolution in the way that we monitor biodiversity. Arguably the biggest 'game-changer' is environmental DNA (e DNA), which refers to free-floating DNA released by organisms into their environment. Rare or elusive species can be detected with greater sensitivity and accuracy using eDNA than by most conventional methods, and we have the capability to screen and describe whole communities, as well as perform targeted monitoring of single species. This paper discusses the basic approaches for molecular monitoring of biodiversity, provides case studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of the techniques, and considers any challenges and limitations that could impact molecular biological recording. It is argued that eDNA surveys offer exciting new opportunities to engage the public in biological recording and that molecular approaches will complement conventional surveys, enabling unprecedented insights into species distributions. Finally, with the number of eDNA studies increasing at a rapid pace, it is argued that there is a need to rapidly establish ways of managing molecular records. Integrating molecular records into existing biological records databases would enhance our understanding of species distributions and may be something that the Biological Records Centre should be considering to mark its landmark anniversary.


Lawson Handley, L. (2015). How will the 'molecular revolution' contribute to biological recording?. Biological journal of the Linnean Society, 115(3), 750-766.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 20, 2015
Online Publication Date Mar 18, 2015
Publication Date 2015-07
Deposit Date Jun 3, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jun 3, 2015
Journal Biological journal of the Linnean Society
Print ISSN 0024-4066
Electronic ISSN 1095-8312
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 115
Issue 3
Pages 750-766
Keywords Biodiversity monitoring, Citizen science, DNA barcoding, eDNA, Environmental DNA, Invasive species, Metabarcoding, Molecular food webs, Trophic interactions
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Publisher URL
Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of an article which has been published in: Biological journal of the Linnean Society, 2015, v.115, issue 3.


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