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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Standardized mtDNA analysis to help identify exotic wildlife

Many exotic pets are also endangered or threatened species.  Global illegal trade in protected wildlife is estimated at $10 billion annually.  The essential first step in international wildlife law enforcement is accurate species identification. In April 2007 Conservation Genetics researchers from Trent University, Ontario, and Toronto Zoo apply DNA barcoding to species identification of genus Brachypelma tarantulas from Mexico. “Brachypelma…tarantulas are popular pets as they are long-lived [15-25 years], brightly-colored, and tend to be docile…leading to over-harvesting from the wild.” Petersen and colleagues developed a method for recovering DNA from shed exoskeletons (exuviae), an improvement over the usual practice for DNA study of live tarantulas of “inducing limb autotomy” ie removing a leg!  Short COI sequences (205 bp) from 23 individuals representing 8 of the 20 known Brachypelma species were analyzed. Even with this short sequence, all species formed well-supported nodes in a NJ tree (tree topology recovered with maximum parsimony and maximum likelihood methods was consistent with NJ results).  The authors call for a “reference set of COI barcodes…fully vouchered and accessioned into a recognized collection”. They conclude that analyzing DNA from exuvia will enable field researchers to “sample individuals in situ without reducing the fitness of animals or reducing the population size” and aid in conservation of these iconic species and their habitats. 

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 10th, 2007 at 10:21 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.

One Response to “Standardized mtDNA analysis to help identify exotic wildlife”

  1. Tarantula breeder Says:

    DNA study of tarantulas is needed, because there are many mistakes in identification. Brachypelmas are OK, but e.g. Avicularia is big problem.


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.