DNA-based Species Identification
Our laboratory can assist with the detection or identification of species from biological samples (droppings, hair, plant, carcass etc.).
From fish to mammals and from plants to fungi get in touch to see how we can help with your species ID requirements.
Biological Species ID
Send us a biological sample and we’ll tell you the species that it is from using molecular techniques such as PCR, qPCR, DNA sequencing and Bioinformatics.
Plant tissue, hair, droppings, carcass, fresh feather/eggshell or an unknown source. Order your sample collection kit here.
As biological matter is predominantly one species, we can utilise genetic sequencing, therefore we can identify the majority of species.
- Standard £90 per analysis 10 working days
- Fast Track £120 per analysis 5 working days.
All prices ex. VAT. The cost of analysis is invoiced to your account once the results are made available. Note: for the first order on new customer accounts the cost of analysis is required to be paid upfront.
In the past, we have identified…
From faeces bats, mice, otters, pine martens, stoats, all sorts of bird species and even brown bears! From hair: badgers, dogs, cats, rabbits, hare, squirrels. We have also worked on a number of wildlife crime and insurance claim cases analysing samples with origin unknown including the identification of cat vs. human urine deposits, fungi spores and black rat faeces. See more target species below!
Target Species & Case Studies
Bat ID & Sexing
Bird ID & Sexing
Trees, Shrubs & Plants
Many invasive and ecologically important plants can be difficult to identify, particularly at times of the year when they are not flowering. Our plant identification service uses molecular techniques including PCR and DNA sequencing to determine the origin of your plant material down to the species* or genus level. Important for insurance, mortgage providers, environmental agencies as well as ecologists in plant conservation.
(*note: due to hybridization in some flowering plants, or extremely high genetic similarity in some closely related species, it may not always be possible to obtain a definitive species level identification).
- Sample type: leaf, flower, root, bud.
Common targets include Japanese knotweed, Giant hogweed, water primrose and Himalayan Balsam.
Bees, Wasps & Hornets
We are now able to ID bee, wasp and hornet carcasses, cocoons and other biological material. Pictured here from left to right is the cocoon, the pupa which was inside the cocoon and the meconium (the waste product of the larvae) of an Asian hornet which we were able to confirm using DNA testing, as well as identify honey bee DNA within their meconium.
Asian hornets are non-native to the UK and are highly effective predators to our native insects including honey bees. They were accidentally introduced in France in 2004 and have since spread to a number of European countries. Since 2016 there have been 22 confirmed sightings in the UK, with 2 so far in 2022.
Pine Martens can be difficult to track in the wild, but using evidence of their presence such as droppings can be useful in determining their location. Read our white paper here.
Using evidence left behind by otters we can identify their presence in an ecosystem using molecular methods.
Water voles can be detected using non-invasive sampling if droppings are present. (Note: eDNA (water sample) analysis is currently under development for water voles).
Our Forensic Ecology service can determine the presence of either red or grey squirrels from an ecological sample such as hair or droppings.
Buy Your Kit (Optional)
Our Forensic Ecology Sample Collection kits contains everything required to collect a single biological sample for species ID analysis at SureScreen Scientifics. Each kit comes with a freepost return to our laboratory for fast and reliable analysis. See below for full description and a list of accepted sample types.
- Forensic Ecology Sample Collection Kit – £15.00 per kit ex. VAT
You can choose to use your own sterile consumables to collect your own samples. If you opt for this, please ensure that samples are not squashed during transit and you still fill in a biological sample collection form here.
Returning Your Samples For Analysis
If you have purchased our sample collection kit, the return address is on the box along with prepaid return delivery. Simply secure the box with tape and post it in your nearest royal mail postbox.
Alternatively, please post your samples in a padded envelope to:
Church Lane, Morley
Please ensure that samples are not squashed during transit and that you still fill in a biological sample collection form (available below).
Species not listed?
The species listed above are the routine targets we look for, however there are hundreds more species we can detect. Get in contact to see if the assay for your target species has already been developed, and if it has we’ll be able to detect it for you.
Note: For non routine targets we may need to buy the primers specifically for you, this may take a few days and may incur the cost price of the primers depending on the number of analyses required.
Assay not yet developed?
If an assay hasn’t already been developed, appoint our experts to design one for you using our Assay Design Service.
Do I need to use a SureScreen Scientifics sample collection kit?
No! You can send your samples in small containers such as microcentrifuge tubes. Make sure you send your samples in a sturdy sterile container and not in a plastic bag or envelope as these often get damaged during delivery, which can lead to sample degradation. Our kits are the most reliable option to ensure the best results because they contain a preservative solution which prevents DNA degradation and means the samples can be stored for longer periods of time before analysis.
How long can I keep the kit before (and after) sampling, is there an expiry date?
Our kits are designed to have an expiry date with a minimum of 24 months from delivery if kept in ambient conditions. After sampling, kits can be kept for 4 weeks in the refrigerator or 2 weeks at ambient conditions. For best results, please try to sample and send samples back as soon as possible.
How many samples can I collect with each kit?
Each kit contains the resources to collect a single sample.
When can I collect a sample?
Samples can be collected at any time of year.
Do I need to collect a reserve sample?
We advise where possible to collect a reserve sample. If the analysis process does not work on the first attempt, we will use the reserve sample to do a repeat analysis. If you provide a reserve sample, you are more likely to receive a definitive species identification result.
How do I return my kits to the laboratory?
Please send completed kits back to our laboratory by using our freepost kit box or using a courier of your choice.
SureScreen Scientifics Ltd
Church Lane, Morley
We also accept hand-delivered kits between 08:00 and 16.00 Monday to Friday, and by appointment 24/7.
Can I send you another company’s kit to analyse?
Yes, we can analyse biological samples which are collected using other company’s kits.
How do I dispose of my unused kits?
Kit components can be disposed of or recycled according to your locally available recycling facilities. Sample preservative solution can be disposed of by pouring down the sink with copious amounts of water. If you would prefer, you can return kits to us for correct disposal.
Do I need a purchase order (PO) when returning my kits?
Yes, we are unable to begin processing a sample without a purchase order (or reference) provided on the sample collection form. This means that there might be a delay to sample processing.
My result wasn’t what I expected, can you repeat the analysis?
We analyse a sample up to three times to achieve a result. If no DNA is detected after three attempts, we are confident there is no longer any DNA in the sample to detect. A repeat analysis would likely achieve the same result. If a different species to the one you were expecting has been reported, it is likely that any repeat sequencing would yield the same result. In these cases, we are therefore unable to repeat the analysis, without paying for additional sample analysis.
What methods do you use for the analysis?
The analysis follows a standardised procedure for DNA extraction, PCR amplification of target species DNA using universal markers that amplify DNA from the group of suspected target species species. If DNA is successfully amplified it is purified and then Sanger sequenced. The resulting sequence is then assessed using bioinformatic tools in order to infer species identity, by crossmatching the genetic sequence obtained from the sequencing step to millions of DNA sequences from every species imaginable (including bats, human, bacteria etc.). Negative controls are used at each step during our analytical procedure to ensure samples are contamination free.
Where can I find my results?
Once your results are available, they will be sent to the email address provided on the sample collection form before the deadline. If you have not received your results before this date, make sure that you check your spam or junk email folder.
How do I interpret the results?
This is the sequence of DNA which is obtained through the analysis. It is placed into our database and matched against records of all bat species to determine to which species it is most similar to. You can apply a search for the genetic sequence in your report by going to: https://blast.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Blast.cgi and then selecting Nucleotide BLAST, inputting your sequence in the Enter Query Sequence box and then pressing the BLAST button.
This is how similar the sequence from your sample is to the sequences which are available in the databases. Usually, reliable sequences are between 85% and 99% similar to the database records. Anything below this can still result in a species detection but should be interpreted with care. Matches of 100% are rare, because most individuals of a species have small changes in their DNA, making each sequence slightly different to those in the reference database.
Why was my result inconclusive?
Our method has been optimised over several years so we give a low number of inconclusive results.
If you have received an inconclusive result this usually means that the sample is aged or degraded. To keep our prices competitive, we still charge for the analysis as we have attempted to analyse your sample three times.