Bird strikes and DNA barcodes.

I don’t know if the same people are giving the same arguments against DNA barcoding anymore as I have pretty much stopped following those old discussions out of exhaustion. We can argue about how much influence DNA methods should have on alpha taxonomy (ranging from “none” to “who needs names, just use DNA sequences” — the latter being DNA taxonomy rather than DNA barcoding, and not a position that I endorse). What is silly to argue is that DNA barcoding would not have any practical roles that can’t already be covered just as easily, cheaply, and accurately by morphology-based identification.

Here’s a story in the New York Times about the importance of identifying which species are involved in airplane bird strikes.

Identifying the Bird, When Not Much Bird Is Left

It talks about the use of feathers and feet (i.e., morphology) and also describes the use of DNA (new word: “snarge“). It does not mention DNA barcoding per se, but it bears noting that the FAA and USAF support DNA barcoding efforts at the Smithsonian. In general, it would be best to have as many tools as possible, including sequencing DNA and comparing this against the bird DNA barcode dataset, which already encompasses more than 2600 species (out of about 10,000) and means to include every bird on the planet within the next several years.


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