Metabarcoding and Pollinators

The African Centre for DNA Barcoding is using genes in the chloroplasts of plants to identify exactly which pollinators visit plants and why.  Known as Metabarcoding, this technology is allowing researchers a clearer understanding of pollinator networks.  It is not a simple case of employing observation, as plants may be visited by one or multiple pollinators, and many plants may be visited.  Gathering greater insight into this process is opening a window into a world that is currently under multiple threats.

Metabarcoding now has the potential to unpack the complexity in our pollinator eco-systems, both natural and agricultural.

It is reported in The Conversation that DNA-based techniques are increasingly being used to identify pollen on pollinators and their products. And Metabarcoding is one of these techniques that lifts samples from pollen and uses the genes in the chloroplasts to create a plant ‘fingerprint’ or barcode.  ACDB are taking these samples and building a reference database.  With metabarcoding we can now lift a sample of pollen off a pollinator and reference where it came from using the database.

Previous to this technology studying our large diversity in pollinators was challenging through observation only as we have bees, predacious wasps, pollen wasps, beetles, moths and birds, all going about their business with different objectives, either to pollinate or collect something specific which has no baring on the actual pollination of the plant. Tracking when and who visits our plants, and why, will lead to a broader understanding of how our pollinator networks operate across our biodiversity corridors.

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