Molecular Biological Analysis for Identifying Cultural PropertyPests Using Their Frass

Method to identify cultural property pests using DNA as an identifier
Collecting frass from buildings

 Damages caused by cultural property pests are a serious and global threat to cultural property conservation because they result in significant losses of cultural property materials and largely reduce their values. Thus, it is critical to identify and take appropriate measures as soon as the cultural properties start showing signs of damage to prevent further loss. However, we may encounter a situation in which it is difficult to identify “criminal” species even by experts, as we cannot find living insect pests but only their frass. To overcome these difficulties, the Biological Science Section has identified cultural property pests using DNA extracted from frass as an identifier.

 As the outcomes in FY2021, we succeeded in establishing a method to identify species by frass for the major pests boring bamboo, which are used as part of cultural property buildings and to create craft works. The method includes collecting bamboo-boring pests, extracting the DNAs, and determining a short section of sequence from a specific gene. The datum is registered in the international databases, combining the morphological characteristics and the DNA sequence. Then, DNA is extracted from frass collected at rearing containers and outside buildings, determining their target sequence. The resulting sequences are compared to the reference databases to find the matching species. Before the establishment of the method, it was difficult to determine the base sequence, because the DNA extracted from the frass was either too small or contaminated by DNA of other species. However, specific primers for PCR constructed in this study enabled us to succeed in identifying “criminal” species using anonymous frass collected in the cultural property buildings, rather than being limited to laboratories. Please refer to “Science for Conservation” #61 for further details.

 In the future, we plan to further develop specific primers to identify species by frass of cultural property pests in various phyletic lines, and enable easy usage in the field by upgrading the base detection system, including standardization and simplification of methods. We will continue to proceed with the study to achieve these objectives.

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