Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Scientists using DNA to track Mekong’s ‘monsters’



Scientists using DNA to track Mekong’s ‘monsters’

A marine biologist (left) stands in the water next to a Mekong giant catfish near the Kingdom’s capitol in November. The University of Nevada, Reno
A marine biologist (left) stands in the water next to a Mekong giant catfish near the Kingdom’s capitol in November. The University of Nevada, Reno

Scientists using DNA to track Mekong’s ‘monsters’

Environmental DNA collection could be a “silver bullet” for tracking and protecting critically endangered fish in the Mekong, according to a new report.

The technique – which involves filtering DNA in shed skin from river water – was put to the test at six deep Mekong River sites, including two in Cambodia, in the study Trails of river monsters: Detecting critically endangered Mekong giant catfish, published in this month’s Global and Ecology Conservation journal.

Lead author Eva Bellemain said that the study had detected the Mekong giant catfish in one Thai location; but given the complexity and size of the river and rarity of the species, she said this was a promising find.

“Extracting DNA from the water is relatively new, and it’s non-invasive, so you don’t need to harm the fish,” she said.

She said her team was now refining their research in order to calculate the number of fish in an area, rather than determining their mere presence.

The report said DNA detection could help at-risk fish, as “the status of many iconic threatened species is poorly known” and mostly relies on interviews with fishermen or sampling of fish captured through commercial harvests.

Eric Baran, senior scientist with NGO World Fish, said tracing fish DNA could help conservation efforts.

“Most critically endangered species in the Mekong are giant species . . . because they are naturally rare, easy to catch and usually take many years before reaching their sexual maturity,” he said in an email.

“Knowing better where they migrate or reproduce could help keep their migration routes open and protect their breeding sites.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • Floods prompt evacuations in Kampong Speu

    Rain-induced floods and water flowing from Kampong Speu province have submerged the houses of 1,527 families living close to the Prek Thnot River in Spean Thma, Tien, Kong Noy and Roluos communes in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, according to data from local authorities. Spean Thma

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Cintri strike ends, workers’ contracts to be terminated

    CINTRI (Cambodia) Ltd rubbish collectors who have been on strike for the past 13 days agreed to return to work starting Wednesday evening after the company agreed to terminate their contracts at the end of January next year and provide seniority payments and other benefits to

  • Inmates evacuated, schools closed as flooding takes toll

    Thousands of students in Battambang province missed school while over 1,000 prisoners in Banteay Meanchey province were evacuated because of rain-induced floods in the past few days. Yi Songky, director of the provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sport, said floods affected 316 schools in Battambang. Over 200