Most of us are familiar with bar codes, those small black stripes with numbers below, known as the Universal Product Code or UPC label, that appear on commercial products. We scan them at the grocery store or to check a price, or have to cut them out and send them in for a rebate.
Now imagine scanning a DNA barcode on the piece of fish you just bought for dinner to instantly verify the species, where it came from, its nutritional value, and other valuable information. NOAA researchers are helping to make this scenario a reality.
"We need to accurately identify species for a number of reasons, from documenting the biodiversity of poorly sampled species and geographic areas to understanding populations and managing global fisheries in a sustainable way, said Bruce Collette, a zoologist at NOAAs National Systematics Laboratory (NSL) located in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. "DNA barcoding is another tool in the toolbox of taxonomists and researchers who study, document, and organize knowledge about all life forms on earth.
Collette and colleagues at NSL, part of NOAAs Northeast Fisheries Science Center, are participating in FISH-BOL, the global Fish Barcode of Life Initiative, which plans to collect at least five representatives each of all 30,000 plus marine and freshwater species in the world. FISH-BOL is part of the global Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL), started in 2003 to barcode everything from fishes, mushrooms and flowers, to microbes, insects and animals of every description.
With decades of experience, Collette is among a small number of taxonomists who conduct the painstaking work required to identify new species, or re-identify a specimen as new information is gained. After years looking into microscopes and examining animals stored in jars, he now spends much of his time working at a computer screen at his NOAA office deep within the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History.
|Contact: Shelley Dawicki|
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service