The Science of Tequila Shots

When I was in graduate school, some colleagues once served a round of drinks in 50mL conical centrifuge tubes. If only someone had dipped a pipet into one of those shots, we might have beaten these guys to publication:

Researchers from [the University of Guelph’s] Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) have discovered that mescal itself contains the DNA of the agave butterfly caterpillar — the famously tasty “worm” that many avoid consuming. Their findings will appear in the March issue of BioTechniques, which is available online now.

Tequila with worm

Tequila with worm

Grossed out yet? Well, they followed the party trick with a practical application, as described in their open-access article in BioTechniques:

We then successfully amplified and sequenced DNA from the 95% ethanol preservative of 70 freshly collected specimens and 7 archival specimens 7–10 years old. These results suggest that DNA extraction is a superfluous step in many protocols and that preservative ethanol can be used as a source of genetic material for non-invasive sampling or when no tissue specimen is left for further DNA analyses.

Instead of doing a tedious, time-consuming DNA extraction on an alcohol-preserved specimen, one can simply pull out some of the alcohol. Combined with new molecular identification techniques, that could save a lot of time and money in entomology labs. It might turn a few people off tequila, though.