The Barcode Blog

A mostly scientific blog about short DNA sequences for species identification and discovery. I encourage your commentary. -- Mark Stoeckle

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DNA barcoding identifies mystery hummingbird, points toward wide utility in conservation assessments

An unidentified Selasphorus hummingbird spent fall 2005 and winter 2006 frequenting a hummingbird feeder in London, Ontario. As is often true with female or immature hummingbirds, despite close observation and photographs, photo credit shay redmondit was not possible to identify the exact species, in this case whether this was an Allen’s (S. sasin) or Rufous (S. rufus), species native to the western U.S. that normally winter in Mexico. Even in the hand, identification can be difficult and in banding studies most individuals are often simply recorded as “UNHU”, unidentified hummingbird species.

In this case, a single feather the barcoded breast feather spotted beneath the feeder was brought to University of Guelph, Ontario. DNA extracted from the feather and analyzed for COI barcode proved a match for S. rufus

Beyond solving a conundrum for birders, this case points toward a general utility of DNA barcoding in conservation assessments by enabling routine identification of otherwise unidentifiable species, including use of samples from live individuals which may be particularly important in study of threatened or endangered species.  

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 27th, 2006 at 11:20 pm and is filed under AllBirds, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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About this site

This web site is an outgrowth of the Taxonomy, DNA, and Barcode of Life meeting held at Banbury Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, September 9-12, 2003. It is designed and managed by Mark Stoeckle, Perrin Meyer, and Jason Yung at the Program for the Human Environment (PHE) at The Rockefeller University.

About the Program for the Human Environment

The involvement of the Program for the Human Environment in DNA barcoding dates to Jesse Ausubel's attendance in February 2002 at a conference in Nova Scotia organized by the Canadian Center for Marine Biodiversity. At the conference, Paul Hebert presented for the first time his concept of large-scale DNA barcoding for species identification. Impressed by the potential for this technology to address difficult challenges in the Census of Marine Life, Jesse agreed with Paul on encouraging a conference to explore the contribution taxonomy and DNA could make to the Census as well as other large-scale terrestrial efforts. In his capacity as a Program Director of the Sloan Foundation, Jesse turned to the Banbury Conference Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, whose leader Jan Witkowski prepared a strong proposal to explore both the scientific reliability of barcoding and the processes that might bring it to broad application. Concurrently, PHE researcher Mark Stoeckle began to work with the Hebert lab on analytic studies of barcoding in birds. Our involvement in barcoding now takes 3 forms: assisting the organizational development of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life and the Barcode of Life Initiative; contributing to the scientific development of the field, especially by studies in birds, and contributing to public understanding of the science and technology of barcoding and its applications through improved visualization techniques and preparation of brochures and other broadly accessible means, including this website. While the Sloan Foundation continues to support CBOL through a grant to the Smithsonian Institution, it does not provide financial support for barcoding research itself or support to the PHE for its research in this field.