Basic Research for the Development of a New Technology Useful for Detecting Cultural Property Pest

Field survey
DNA base sequence analysis

 The Biological Science Section of the Center for Conservation Science has been promoting basic research on a new technology useful for detecting cultural property pests or pest identification methods that use DNA analysis. In order to specify the type of a cultural property pest, we generally identify the species by comparing the characteristics of the external morphology of the pest with information described in pictorial books and specialized guides. The similar external morphology of some pests will make type specification difficult and require specialized knowledge, including dissection and comparison of body details. In addition, we frequently experience a situation that allows us to obtain only limited parts of their bodies. Therefore, we have been analyzing some specific regions of DNA of cultural property pests, creating a unique database of base sequence information specialized for cultural property pests, and attempting to apply the “DNA barcoding” method to conduct type specification by using DNA obtained from unidentified samples.
 We conducted a field survey from August 6th to 7th, 2020, in the historical wooden structures in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, in an attempt to capture several species of Anobiidae not registered in the database. With no effective traps available to capture target Anobiidae during the field survey, we conducted persistent research, checking every detail of the damaged wooden structures, which resulted in the capture of several species of Anobiidae.
 To date, we have determined the DNA base sequences of about 40 major cultural property pests, including the individuals obtained from this field survey, and are now proceeding with the creation of the database. Included in it are many types unregistered in the public database. We can safely say that it is a matter of great importance to build a database specializing in cultural property pests.
 Hereafter, we plan to develop technology to identify the pests from their body parts such as legs and wings, extract DNA from molting shells and manure left in damaged parts, and identify the “criminal” that has harmed cultural properties.

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