Many scientific discoveries take years and multiple attempts to come to fruition, so it should come as no surprise that it is very exciting for scientists detect a way to speed up the system, or even eradicate it completely.
That very discovery happened for a group of researchers from the Smithsonian who were studying the diets of herbivorous insects in a tropical rain forest.
The study focused specifically on 20 species of rolled leaf beetles in Costa Rica, and the 33 species of flowering plants that these beetles eat off of and lay eggs on almost exclusively. Scientists were able to extract DNA from the insects' system as well as the bugs' stomach contents in order to figure out what they were particularly eating. They then used DNA markers and barcodes to track the plant diets for each insect.
"What makes this study unique is that we developed DNA extraction techniques and full DNA barcode libraries that allowed us to identify host plants to the species level," Carlos Garcia-Robledo, a post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian and lead author of the study, said in a statement. "Another unique feature of this study is that we invested several years in the field identifying the diets of insect herbivores using direct observations. This baseline data allowed us for the first time to test the accuracy of DNA barcodes to identify insect diets."
Since the scientists already had a lot of data racked up from years of observing the insects in the field, they were able to have excellent data to compare their extractions too.
The new information from the extracted DNA did not differ much from the data that took years to compile. This contrast allowed the researchers to come to the conclusion that they can use this method to speed up other research.