Who needs DNA barcoding?

If you listen to the (rapidly diminishing) criticisms of DNA barcoding, one you will often hear is that we don’t need it because we have keys, taxonomic experts, etc. This isn’t quite as ridiculous as the claim that barcoding saps resources from taxonomy (seeing as how it has literally moved millions of dollars out of biomedical genomics and into biodiversity research including by alpha taxonomists). But it is pretty silly when you consider just how many applications keep emerging for a technology that allows the identification of any life stage, sex, or specimen condition. Here are a couple of recent examples:

DNA barcoding exposes fake ferns in international plant trade

Barcoding endangered sea turtles

Sand fly barcoding in Panama reveals Leishmania strain and its potential control

Hidden habits and movements of insect pests revealed by DNA barcoding

Mercury is higher in some tuna species, according to DNA barcoding

Unknowingly consuming endangered tuna

CU-Boulder team identifies DNA barcodes to help track illegal trading of wildlife products

And don’t forget the series of reports of widespread market substitution in market fishes. For example, check out my friend and colleague Bob Hanner discussing this topic on a recent episode of Marketplace:

Next week, I’m off to Nairobi for the inaugural meeting of HealthBOL, of which I am international Scientific Coordinator: a project within the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) initiative focused on vectors, parasites, and pathogens.


1 comment to Who needs DNA barcoding?

  • slpage

    A bit of a tangent, but when the concept of DNA barcoding first hit the press a few years ago, a creationist on a discusson forum I frequented at the time claimed that this was proof of Intelligent Design/creation – why, how else could there be such a code in the DNA!

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