Barcoding technology employed by scientists of LaCONES, a facility of CCMB

Civilian as well as military aircraft frequently face the problem of bird hits, which not only cause huge economic loss but also pose safety hazard at times.

In a bid to tackle the problem in a more systemic manner, advanced scientific knowledge, particularly DNA barcoding technology, is being employed by scientists from Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES), a facility of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) here.

A major project launched by LaCONES to build a comprehensive DNA data base of various bird species in the country is now coming in handy for the scientists to help the Indian Air Force (IAF) evolve a strategy for combating the menace.

Around 120 DNA samples collected from the bird-hit aircraft of the IAF and sent to LaCONES over the past one year from various locations were analysed to find out the species involved in the bird hits in that particular area.

The initial results of the ongoing study found that most frequent bird-hits were caused by six species -- house swift, black kite, lapwing, swallow and doves and pigeons.

Dr. S. Shivaji, Director-Grade scientist at CCMB told The Hindu that the basic aim of the study was to identify the most dominant species involved in the bird-strikes in that particular area. Depending on the type of bird involved, a strategy could be formulated to minimise the problem. In case a scavenger species was found to be causing most such incidents, steps could be taken to ensure that there were no garbage dumps around that site. Similarly, if passerine birds, which normally feed on grains, were involved, it could be ensured that no fields were in the vicinity.

According to P. Anuradha Reddy, scientist from LaCONES, a data base of 300 bird species of the 1,225 found in the country had so far been established. With the DNA signatures available from 300 species, she said that received samples would be matched with them or with an open data base of the National Centre of Biotechnology Information (NCBI) to establish the identity of the species.