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

n specialists can have trouble distinguishing disease-carrying species from harmless species, which may be identical in outward appearance. Better identifications will lead to more efficient control of vectors.

DNA is a fantastic tool for sorting these things out, said Richard Wilkerson, a research entomologist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research working at the LAB with Smithsonian scientists. There are 3,400 known species of mosquitoes, but Wilkerson suspects barcoding will reveal many more. In one case in Australia there turned out to be 23 species going under one name. Only one or two are probably vectors, he said.

The Smithsonians LAB also is working with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to develop better, faster, cheaper ways of monitoring water quality in streams, Weigt said. Currently, water quality is assessed by identifying insect larvae living in the streams. But traditional methods are very time-intensive and subject to error. Its very difficult to pick up larvae of an insect and identify it all the way to species; but with DNA its easy, Weigt said.


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Contact: Michele Urie
UrieM@si.edu
202-633-2950
Smithsonian
Source:Eurekalert

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