Advances in DNA metabarcoding for food and wildlife forensic species identification

Staats, Martijn; Arulandhu, Alfred J.; Gravendeel, Barbara; Holst-Jensen, Arne; Scholtens, Ingrid; Peelen, Tamara; Prins, Theo W.; Kok, Esther


Species identification using DNA barcodes has been widely adopted by forensic scientists as an effective molecular tool for tracking adulterations in food and for analysing samples from alleged wildlife crime incidents. DNA barcoding is an approach that involves sequencing of short DNA sequences from standardized regions and comparison to a reference database as a molecular diagnostic tool in species identification. In recent years, remarkable progress has been made towards developing DNA metabarcoding strategies, which involves next-generation sequencing of DNA barcodes for the simultaneous detection of multiple species in complex samples. Metabarcoding strategies can be used in processed materials containing highly degraded DNA e.g. for the identification of endangered and hazardous species in traditional medicine. This review aims to provide insight into advances of plant and animal DNA barcoding and highlights current practices and recent developments for DNA metabarcoding of food and wildlife forensic samples from a practical point of view. Special emphasis is placed on new developments for identifying species listed in the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) appendices for which reliable methods for species identification may signal and/or prevent illegal trade. Current technological developments and challenges of DNA metabarcoding for forensic scientists will be assessed in the light of stakeholders’ needs.