Wednesday June 28, 2023


What’s living beneath the waves? It’s a question many Southern California swimmers and surfers ponder when they visit the beach.

Now, thanks to environmental DNA, or eDNA, scientists have the most comprehensive answer ever to that question. A UCLA-led study published in the journal PLOS ONE has identified 80 species of fish and rays living within southern California surf zones—the areas where ocean waves break onto the beach.

“Environmental DNA opens up a wealth of possibilities to monitor our local beach ecosystems,” said Paul Barber, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and the paper’s senior author.

Researchers collected ocean samples at 18 sites stretching from the Channel Islands to Catalina. Then they extracted the DNA that animals shed into that water in the form of dead skin, scales and other body parts. Finally, that DNA was matched by species to samples from genetic libraries.

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