Category Archives: Taxonomy

What bug was that?

By Laurence Clarke

Insects are the most diverse group of animals on the planet, playing important roles as disease carriers, pollinators, and agricultural pests. So, when we want to know what insects are spreading disease, why certain plants are growing (or why they aren’t), or even for BlockQuote3conservation, it’s important that we can identify insect species accurately. I’ve recently developed new tools to identify insects using their DNA. Continue reading


Hike and Pluck: The adventure of delving into the past using genetics and chickens

By Michael Herrera

Genetic research is often viewed as endless laboratory work with little room for real adventure. While partly true, this is not the case when you are researching archaeogenetics: genetics that delves into the human past.  I am Michael Herrera, a PhD researcher at the University of Adelaide and this is my adventure:


The rice terraces of Banaue, Ifugao. Courtesy: M. Herrera

My research involves using genetic variations in domesticated animals as a way to understand prehistoric human migration. This is based on the premise that when prehistoric humans moved around they carried items with them. This included a living larder, including animals such as chickens Continue reading

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck: it’s probably a duck. But ancient DNA can do better than that…

By Kieren Mitchell

Animals that have evolved on islands become adapted to very specific and stable environments, leaving them extremely vulnerable to outside disturbances. For example, many island birds became flightless in the absence of predators (most famously the dodo). Consequently, these species frequently become extinct soon after the arrival of humans, through either direct (e.g. hunting) or indirect actions (e.g. habitat destruction, introduced species). This gives us very little opportunity to study these creatures, and means that their origins and evolutionary relationships are often unknown (e.g. Sylviornis from New Caledonia). Ancient DNA analysis is a valuable tool in unravelling the history of these mysterious species. Continue reading