1 Tahrcountry Musings: More on disappearance of good taxonomists

Sunday, April 03, 2011

More on disappearance of good taxonomists

A few days back we rued the collapse of taxonomic expertise worldwide. Against the backdrop of this sad phenomenon I found an excellent paper about the disappearance of good taxonomists and ways to overcome this. The paper is titled “Biological identifications through DNA barcodes” authored by Paul D. N. Hebert, Alina Cywinska, Shelley L. Ball and Jeremy R. deWaard

The paper is a wee bit old (2003) but what the researchers say has great relevance today. The researchers are convinced that the sole prospect for a sustainable identification capability lies in the construction of systems that employ DNA sequences as taxon ‘barcodes’.

The researchers emphatically conclude that mitochondrial gene cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) can serve as the core of a global bioidentification system for animals.

The researchers clearly demonstrate that COI profiles, derived from the low–density sampling of higher taxonomic categories, ordinarily assign newly analysed taxa to the appropriate phylum or order. Species–level assignments can be obtained by creating comprehensive COI profiles.

A model COI profile, created by the researchers based upon the analysis of a single individual from each of 200 closely allied species of lepidopterans, was 100% successful in correctly identifying subsequent specimens.

The researchers conclude that the current problem of species identification can be overcome by fully developed COI identification system. It will also provide a reliable, cost–effective and accessible solution. The authors sign off saying the assembly will generate important new insights into the diversification of life and the rules of molecular evolution.

Biological identifications through DNA barcodes
 Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B February 7, 2003 270:313-321; doi:10.1098/rspb.2002.2218

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