Plant and animal species identification

  • How do you identify plants and fungi using DNA technology?

    There is enormous diversity of plant and fungi species on the planet. It can be difficult to tell species apart just by eye. One way to be certain what species you have is by analysing its DNA. Once we have received a sample tissue, we crush it which disrupts the cells making the DNA easier to extract.

    In plants, we sequence and analyse two genes called rbcL and matK, both of which are found in chloroplasts of most photosynthetic organisms. Whereas in fungi, we sequence and analyse ITS1 and ITS2 sequences. These sequences are highly variable and surround the 5.8S section of ribosomal RNA. The final step is to compare the DNA sequences obtained from the sample against a database of reference sequences.


  • What samples do you need for plant species identification?
  • What samples do you need for fungi species identification?
  • How long do results take for a plant or fungi species identification DNA test?

    Once we have your samples, we will email you an expected completion date. If you wish to check the progress of your samples during the processing time, please either e-mail or call.

    Once we have received your samples in the lab, your results will be made available within 5 working days.

    A PDF of the report will be emailed to you.  If you do not have an email address your results can be given verbally over the phone or sent out in the post to your address upon your request.

DNA in the environment

  • How do you identify a bat species from its droppings?

    Faeces itself doesn’t contain any pure DNA, however during excretion it scrapes off epithelial cells that line the gastro-intestinal tract. Within these epithelial cells are mitochondria.

    Mitochondrial DNA is widely used in species identification because it evolves much more rapidly than nuclear DNA, this leads to an accumulation of differences between closely related species. Within the mitochondrial DNA is the ND1 gene, it is a standard gene for mammalian species testing.

    Unfortunately, there are several agents present in faeces that can interfere with our testing process, so ironically the faeces must be cleaned before DNA extraction can begin.

    Once we have extracted the DNA we analyse and compare it to a database of reference sequences, such as NCBI or BOLD, this result tells us how closely the ‘unknown’ sequence matches to a species.

  • What samples do you need for a bat DNA test?

    Our preferred sample type is Bat droppings (guano). Often it is very difficult to find any Bats, never mind telling different species apart morphologically, so testing their droppings is a more effective and non-invasive technique.

  • What is eDNA and how do you use it?

    eDNA is environmental DNA, this is DNA that is released from all organisms into their surrounding environment. For example, humans shed skin cells regularly as it regenerates itself. If DNA is present in the cells that are released into the environment we can extract the DNA, sequence it and analyse it to discover which species are present. It is also a non-invasive sampling method which proves very effective for hard-to-study animals. It even works in aquatic systems!

  • What services do you offer for bird strikes?

    Bird strikes, where a bird collides with an aircraft, are a significant danger to flight safety.

    Although bird strikes haven’t caused many major accidents with human casualties, they are fatal to birds and potentially damaging to the aircraft.

    By using state of the art DNA technology, we are able to detect the species of the bird involved. From identifying species it is possible for bird control measures to be more specific and targeted.

    To identify the species of bird from a collision with an aircraft, we accept a variety of samples. These include blood, tissue and feathers.

  • How do you apply DNA testing to wildlife forensics?

    Wildlife forensics involves the investigation of crime scenes in the wild by using scientific procedures and DNA technology to identify and examine evidence.

    One area where this is true is the illegal trafficking of Birds of Prey such as the Bonellis eagle. During breeding season, chicks are stolen from their nests and sold to unknowing breeders using fake CITES documents.

    Our parentage tests allow us to determine the biological mother and father of a Bird of Prey and prove to the breeder that a chick is the offspring of a captive bird.

    We accept a variety of sampling methods including egg membrane if the chick is newly hatched, plucked feathers with the root still intact or blood.


Food authentication

  • What is food authentication and why is it important?

    There is increasing public awareness and interest in food safety and quality. Food authentication is the process that verifies information regarding food origin and production. It ensures that the label information on a product is correct. It is important as it promotes quality assurance and consumer protection from counterfeit and fraudulent products.

  • How do we supply samples to you for DNA testing?

    You can freeze a small portion, provide as much detail about the sample as you can and post it to us at ‘The Durham Genome Centre, Park House, Station Road, Lanchester, Durham, DH7 0EX’.

  • What services do you provide for restaurants and suppliers in the food chain?

    Through DNA testing we can confirm the species of a product and we can also quantify how much of a specific ingredient is in a product (e.g. what percentage of a fishcake is cod or haddock).

  • What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative analysis?

    Qualitative analysis identifies the different constituents in a sample (for e.g. what species is a piece of fish). Whereas quantitative analysis measures the amounts of those constituents in a sample (for e.g. what percentage is cod or haddock in a fish cake).

Bird services

  • So how do you determine the sex of a bird?

    DNA testing is the most reliable way to determine the sex of mono-morphic bird species. We use cutting edge molecular biology techniques and provide free sample collection kits.

    In birds, two chromosomes (W and Z) determine sex. Females carry one of each (ZW), while males carry two Z chromosomes (ZZ). Using state-of-the-art genetic technology, we analyse for the presence of Z and W sex chromosomes in your birds, identifying them as male or female.

    We are also developing a wide range of other genetic testing services, including but not limited to avian parentage testing and studbooks. For more information on any one of these, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0191 543 9448.

  • How much does it cost?

    Our current price for a three day turnaround, upon sample receipt at our laboratory, is £20 (incl. VAT) per sample for general avian sexing. There are no hidden costs.

    Our sampling kits are FREE and can be requested via phone at any time during the year on 0191 543 9448 or via e-mail at [email protected] Each kit contains enough sampling material to submit 5 samples to us for testing, if you would like more then please mention this when contacting us. Our kits have no shelf life and if the breeding season is over or all your birds have been sexed, you can keep them for next year.

    We also offer an accelerated two day service for £30 per sample.

    Please carefully read our Terms and Conditions of sale, which indicate our refund policy.

  • How can I track the progress of my sample?

    Once we have your samples, we can give you an expected completion date. If you wish to check the progress of your samples during the processing time, please either e-mail or call.

    Please note that no results will be released until they have been checked and signed off by the Operations Manager.

  • My chicks have already hatched but I don't have one of your kits. What do I do?

    If you do not have one of our sampling kits, please place each sample in individual sealed containers (such as a Ziploc bag) or 1.5ml tubes and make sure they are individually clearly labelled. Make sure you also supply your name, address and a contact number/e-mail so we can maintain contact with you.

    You can request a specific number of kits to be posted to you via telephone (0191 543 9448) or e-mail us at [email protected]

  • What information do we need from you?

    You can download a Personal Details, Sample Submission Instructions and Sample Record form on our Bird Sexing page to supply all information we need along with your samples. This will include your name, address, a contact number and an e-mail address.

    Additionally to this, we ask for the ring number of each bird and, if different, your own reference for each bird. This allows you to identify each bird with ease and efficiency once you receive your results.

  • What kind of sample do we need?

    Our preferred method of sampling is using egg membrane, however if this is no longer an option, perhaps because the eggshell has been discarded and you wish to use a different sampling method, please get in touch with a member of our team. We accept freshly plucked feathers or blood samples and prefer wherever possible to be notified if you are intending to send these.

    We prefer not to use mouth swabs but will do so only as a last resort, but please contact us to discuss first.

  • What happens if I do not take the sample properly or if it is mixed up by the sampler?

    On rare occasions we are unable to obtain a result or we may identify issues with contamination of the original sample. For example, we have recently identified from a swab sample a peregrine that had recently eaten a great tit!

    The actions we will take are as follows:
    1. We will repeat the work through the laboratory, free of charge.
    2. If we do not get a conclusive result, we will take the decision to re-sample and offer you this opportunity, however this can cause a delay to your expected completion date.

    We have issues in the past with customers mixing up samples at their premises; please take care to sample each egg membrane or bird one at a time and to put the samples into clearly labelled tubes individually.

    We do not recommend the use of swab samples.  It is difficult to get enough sample from a bird of prey for this purpose and we are perhaps more likely to obtain the sex of the last meal.

  • What is a DNA identity card?

    It is a unique record containing information about an individual bird, including specific details regarding the bird itself, its parents, its current keeper and breeder. Each bird is given a unique identification number which is linked to a DNA sample that we store in our biobank.

  • How do you conduct a paternity test on a bird?

    We require a DNA sample from the chick, mother and alleged father. Ideally feathers (3 per bird including the root) or a blood sample (in a tube or on a cotton bud). We extract DNA from this sample and compare the three profiles.

    Like humans, half of the chick DNA comes from the dad and the other half from the mum. If we are certain that mum is a parent then it is a simple case of matching the remaining DNA with the alleged father’s profile. If it all matches up, this means this individual is the father, if it doesn’t match then a different individual must be the father.

  • What services do you offer for ornithologists?

    We have developed several services, currently these include species identification, gender determination and parentage testing.

    Our preferred sample types for all avian work is egg membrane (from freshly hatched eggs), plucked feathers (three per bird, must include the feather root) or blood (couple of drops onto a cotton swab per bird). From any of these sample types we can extract DNA that is specific to that individual bird.

    In birds a region of the mitochondrial gene, COI (cytochrome c oxidase subunit I) is sequenced. This is inherited maternally therefore this test is not recommended for hybrid birds as the result will show the mothers species. This section of DNA is widely used for identifying animal species – its mutation rate is fast enough to be able to distinguish it from closely related species but is conserved among members of the same species. Once the DNA is extracted we compare the sample against a database of reference sequences.

General questions about our service

  • Who are we?

    chXout is a trademark of Complement Genomics Ltd, a company with over 15 years of genetic testing experience. Our offices and laboratories are based in the Durham Genome Centre in Lanchester, Co. Durham, UK, DH7 0EX.

    We provide a wide range of DNA testing services on an international basis for both humans and animals. Our laboratories are ISO 17025 accredited for paternity testing which allows us to be on the list of companies recommended by the Ministry of Justice. Our testing includes genotyping for clinical trials, animal genetics (species identification, parentage, bird sexing) and human testing for paternity, sibling ship, immigration and surrogacy for the legal profession and social services.

    For more information on our other brands and services, please go to our website: http://www.compgeno.com

  • How do I pay for the service?

    Ideally, we would be grateful if you could place your order via our secure shopping cart. However, you may also pay by phone by calling 0191 543 9448 during business hours. We also accept direct bank transfer including mobile devices, please contact us for account details. If you are a business, you may prefer us to issue an invoice. Our regular business customers may be granted credit terms, but otherwise we would expect cleared funds from all of our customer before releasing the results.

chXout is a registered trademark of Complement Genomics Ltd.

The Durham Genome Centre, Park House, Station Road, Lanchester, Durham, DH7 0EX

Registered in England and Wales no. 03929876

VAT no. 746970882

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