The ability to sequence the DNA of plants and animals has revolutionized many areas of biology, but the unstable character of DNA poses difficulties for sequencing specimens in museum collection over time. In an attempt to answer these issues, a recent study of 31 target spider species from the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, discovers that both time and body size are significant factors in determining which specimens can produce DNA barcode sequences. The study was published in a special issue of the open access journal ZooKeys.
The specimens contained in the world's natural history museums are the basis for most of what scientists know about biodiversity. Much like libraries, natural history museums are responsible for the long term preservation of their collections while circulating loans to active scientists. Museum curation techniques were developed over hundreds of years and optimized for anatomical preservation, and are often not ideal for preserving tissues for DNA sequencing.
DNA barcoding is an approach to the study of biodiversity that involves sequencing a standard region from the genome of an unidentified specimen and comparing it to a library of identified reference sequences representing many species. The success of this approach is in part dependent on the completeness of the library of reference sequences. When building such a reference library, specimens must either be freshly collected or taken from an existing collection.
The question addressed in this study is can we predict which specimens in a museum collection are likely to yield a successful DNA barcode sequence? If so, we can optimize our resources, wisely select museum specimens to sequence, and plan fresh collections to supplement. This study focused on Dutch spiders.
31 target species that have been frequently collected in the Netherlands over several decades an
|Contact: Jeremy A. Miller|