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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Mitochondrial DNA analysis regularly reveals new species, supporting DNA to lead the way

There are so many examples of new animal species found through mitochondrial DNA analysis that I believe this should be a routine part of species descriptions. Using morphology alone, taxonomists have often overlooked species that are readily apparent on mitochondrial DNA analysis, including in what should be ideal circumstances using intact adult specimens of large, abundant, and/or economically important organisms. Morphologic characters have been found in some cases but only after DNA has led the way, indicating the discovery process would have been much faster if DNA were analyzed at the beginning. Speed is likely a good way to attract funding, as the public will want the fastest and therefore most economical approach. Mitochondrial DNA analysis can also help extinguish synonomies which have persisted in literature for decades (eg Siddall and Budinoff 2005. Conservation Genetics 6:467).

Under current practice, species recognition whether big or small can be slow (see also earlier post with timeline for discovery of New York Central Park centipede).

Wada et al 2003 Nature 426:278Do you see a new species anywhere? Baleen whale specimen collected in 1976, new species description 27 years later based in part on mitochondrial DNA characters (Wada et al. 2003. Nature 426:278)  


Varroa mite, BBC   

Does this look like 1904? Honeybee mite Varroa jacobsoni described in 1904. In 1970’s, worldwide epidemic infestation of honeybees presumed due to V. jacobsoni began in Asia. 30 years later, epidemic discovered to be due to a new species, V. destructor (Anderson and Trueman 2000. Exp Appl Acarology 24:165). Species description based on mitochondrial DNA divergence; no morphologic characters other than body size.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 20th, 2006 at 2:34 pm and is filed under 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.