Friend or foe: Using DNA barcoding to identify arthropods found at home
(1) Northport High School, Northport, New York, (2) Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York
Arthropoda make up the largest phylum in the animal kingdom. A common assumption is that many of these arthropods that people encounter in their homes are harmful, such as insects and spiders, and people react with the use of pesticides as a result. This means that many people are exposed to pesticides at home. Are arthropods our enemies who deserve to be exterminated at any cost? Our hypothesis was that all arthropods found at home are harmful to human health. We collected arthropods, whole or partial, found inside one residential house over 12 months. We used both morphological characters (field guide) and DNA barcoding to identify them. We checked identified species to see if it was on the pest lists provided by US government, but unexpectedly, none were. Therefore, we concluded that it is a misconception that arthropods found at home are harmful to humans. Furthermore, we suggest that DNA barcoding technology, if made readily available, would be an accurate method for citizens to identify arthropods at the species level, which may help people to avoid overusing pesticides and to reduce pollution. If our experimental strategy were employed at a larger scale, the data generated could help scientists to better understand the evolution of the largest group of animals on Earth and aid in mapping the ecosystem we live in.
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