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Smithsonian scientists help lead effort to 'barcode' world's species
Date:9/16/2007

Smithsonian researchers are among the leaders in a worldwide effort to revolutionize the way scientists identify species in the laboratory and in the field with a technique called DNA barcoding. Similar to the barcode that identifies an item at the grocery store, a DNA barcode is used to identify and distinguish biological species.

This month, scientists are gathering in Taiwan for the Second International Barcode of Life Conference (Sept. 17-21). They will discuss potential applications for using DNA barcodes, including food safety, disease prevention and better environmental monitoring. There are now more than 280,000 DNA barcode records representing about 31,000 species.

DNA barcoding is emerging as a global standard for identifying species in basic taxonomic research, biodiversity studies and in government regulation. The Smithsonians scientists are important leaders in the Barcode of Life Initiative, and the National Museum of Natural History is demonstrating the importance of museum collections, said David Schindel, executive secretary of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life, based at the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History.

Each of the worlds estimated 1.8 million species is genetically uniqueits unique identity is carried in its DNA molecules. DNA barcoding rapidly sequences the DNA from a single, standardized gene on the DNA molecule. The technique can quickly identify species from larval forms or tissue samples that can sometimes be nearly impossible to identify through traditional methods.

Accuracy and speed are especially important, as much of worlds biodiversity is disappearing faster than scientists can tally species in rainforests and other threatened tropical ecosystems. Beyond tropical forests, DNA barcoding has practical applications for the public. Health and government officials are using DNA barcoding to help track disease vectors, monitor the environment and make the skies safer by reduc
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Contact: Michele Urie
UrieM@si.edu
202-633-2950
Smithsonian
Source:Eurekalert

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