Sand DNA - A genetic library of life at the water's edge

Robert K. Naviaux, Benjamin Good, John Douglas Mcpherson, David L. Steffen, David Markusic, Barbara Ransom, Jacques Corbeil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Powdered silica has long been used for the purification of nucleic acids in the laboratory. Silicate-rich, ordinary ocean beach sand was found to concentrate dissolved DNA from seawater over 10 000-fold, providing a rich, renewable, and easily accessible genetic library that is easy to harvest and inexpensive to process. We found an average of 29 μg ml-1 of cell-free DNA adsorbed to silicate-rich, wave-washed sand from 14 beaches bordering 9 seas around the world. The DNA from a reference beach was shotgun cloned, 3 107 399 nucleotides of anonymous, non-redundant sequence were analyzed, and 2571 genes were found; 2562 of these genes were new. The apparent complexity of sand DNA was greater than 1.4 × 1011 nucleotides. About 90 % of the sequences identified were from prokaryotes, 10 % from eukaryotes, and 1 % were viral. Sequences from all kingdoms of life were present. Over half the sequences came from new phylotypes, reflecting the novelty of this genetic reservoir.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-22
Number of pages14
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
StatePublished - Oct 11 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Beach
  • Dissolved DNA
  • Genetic library
  • Sand

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science


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