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Revealing population demographics with environmental RNA
  • Robert Hechler,
  • Melania Cristescu
Robert Hechler
University of Toronto
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Melania Cristescu
McGill University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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The analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA) and environmental RNA (eRNA) released by organisms into their surrounding environment (water, soil, air), have emerged as powerful tools for biodiversity monitoring. While eDNA has been widely adopted for the non-invasive detection of species and characterization of community composition across the tree of life, eRNA is in its infancy. Due to its functional nature, eRNA holds intriguing potential for biodiversity monitoring opening new avenues of research beyond species detection. For example, conspecifics that are almost genetically identical can exhibit distinct transcriptomic differences depending on their life stage. In this issue of Molecular Ecology Resources, Parsley and Goldberg (2023) demonstrate, through a lab-validated field study, that eRNA can be used to detect distinct life stages of amphibians. This study elegantly demonstrates that eRNA can be used not only to detect invasive or endangered species but also to reveal population demographic information important for conservation.