Development and Testing of Environmental DNA (eDNA) Protocols for the Endangered James Spinymussel (Pleurobema collina)

Report No: 18-R18

Published in 2017

About the report:

Molecular genetic techniques provide tools that may be used to locate, monitor, and survey cryptic aquatic species. This study developed genetic markers useful in determining if the James Spinymussel (Pleurobema collina), an endangered species, can be detected solely by sampling stream water.

Genetic markers developed for this species were tested in locales where P. collina exists with known relative density. Detection probability of target species was 50%. Three sites with a historical, though not contemporary, record of the Spinymussel did not return positive identification, one of which because of inhibition of marker reactions. Among locales with positive findings, the researchers were able to rank relative biomass to census size successfully.

The results of the study suggest that subsequent work should focus on overcoming abiotic inhibitory compounds in the water column and examining biomass across a set of locales with few individuals to determine the lower limits of detectability for this protocol. These findings suggest continued development of this approach, as it is broadly applicable to activities of the Virginia Department of Transportation beyond this sole cryptic and endangered species. The study recommends that a second phase of research be conducted to refine the eDNA methods developed in this study in order to increase their implementation potential as a survey tool.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Rodney J. Dyer, Bonnie A. Roderique

Last updated: November 11, 2023

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