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The first DNA barcodes of commonly traded bushmeat are published
Date:9/4/2009

Leather handbags and chunks of red meat: when wildlife specialists find these items in shipping containers, luggage, or local markets, they can now use newly published genetic sequences known as "DNA barcodes" to pinpoint the species of origin. Experts hope that this simple technique will track the harvesting of bushmeat (or wildlife hunted largely in Asia, South and Central America, and Africa) and will ultimately crack down on the widespread and growing international trade in bushmeat, a market estimated to be worth as much as $15 billion in 2008. According to a paper published in the early online edition of Conservation Genetics (DOI 10.1007/s10592-009-9967-0), barcodes can ably and quickly distinguish among a large number of commercially traded species, so that a handbag is identified as caiman or Nile crocodile, and the meat as duiker or mangabey.

"The species in our study are among the most commercially harvested species in South America and Africa. They are often partially prepared by the time they get to urban markets, which can make the species identification impossible," says one of the authors, Mitchell Eaton, who led the research as part of his doctoral research at the University of Colorado. "In this study, we tested the usefulness of molecular barcodes for monitoring bushmeat harvest and trafficking in wildlife products. We have shown that the method effectively and unambiguously identifies a large number of species."

A genetic barcode is a relatively short region of a gene in the mitochondrion, a structure present outside of the nucleus in cells of all multicellular animals. Over the years, scientists have searched for an appropriate region of the genome that mutates quickly enough to distinguish closely related species but also slowly enough so that individuals within a species have similar barcodes. A 645 base pair region of the COX1 gene (cyotochrome c oxidase subunit 1) has been agreed-upon by researchers as app
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Contact: Kristin Elise Phillips
kphillips@amnh.org
212-496-3419
American Museum of Natural History
Source:Eurekalert  

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