25 April, 2016
One of the UK’s
oldest horticultural societies plans to use DNA techniques to properly assess
the diversity of slugs and snails in UK gardens.
Horticultural Society (RHS), which was founded in 1804 by the famous naturalist
Sir Joseph Banks, has announced plans to apply a range of DNA extraction
methods and barcoding techniques to assess the tools’ usefulness in slug
The charity, whose
aim is to to ‘inspire passion and excellence in the science, art and practice
of horticulture’, says that despite the significance of slugs and snails as
major horticultural pests, there have been very few studies of the diversity of
slugs and snails in the UK’s gardens. Yet the pests are the most common enquiry
to its Gardening Advice service.
availability of comprehensive identification guides for the numerous slug and
snail species present in the UK, including native and exotic species, the RHS
says identification by inexperienced recorders can often be difficult. It
believes that the use of molecular tools such as DNA barcoding would open up
opportunities for broader ‘citizen science’ surveys in gardens.
The project is at
an early stage, but fieldwork is to include the gathering of slugs from a range
of garden habitats and using morphological identification to verify species. It
is hoped that this will lead to molecular work to test the identification
potential of DNA extracted from their bodies, and investigate whether it is
possible to identify slugs by extracting DNA from their mucus.
Scheduled to take
place during the summer of 2016, the RHS intends to publish a report on
completion of the project.