U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Management of Biological Invasions (2016) Volume 7, Issue 2: 193–197

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3391/mbi.2016.7.2.07


US government work


Early detection of invasive species is critical to increasing the probability of successful management. At the primary stage of an invasion, invasive species are easier to control as the population is likely represented by just a few individuals. Detection of these first few individuals can be challenging, particularly if they are cryptic or otherwise characterized by low detectability. The engagement of members of the public may be critical to early detection as there are far more citizens on the landscape than trained biologists. However, it can be difficult to assess the credibility of public reporting, especially when a diagnostic digital image or a physical specimen in good condition are lacking. DNA barcoding can be used for verification when morphological identification of a specimen is not possible or uncertain (i.e., degraded or partial specimen). DNA barcoding relies on obtaining a DNA sequence from a relatively small fragment of mitochondrial DNA and comparing it to a database of sequences containing a variety of expertly identified species. Herein we report the successful identification of a degraded specimen of a non-native, potentially invasive reptile species (Varanus niloticus) via DNA barcoding, after discovery and reporting by a member of the public.

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