When Roger Tory Peterson’s “A Field Guide to the Birds” was published in 1934, it opened the door to a multitude of persons being able to identify birds, helped create small industry of birding guides and optics, and was a driving force in the much larger social transformation in awareness of the natural world and human impact. I see the library of DNA barcodes as a (near) universal field guide to the immense diversity of multicellular life, with similar potential for large scientific and societal benefits. Of course the library is not complete (so far, >1 M records, >92 K species), but enough work has been done in diverse taxonomic groups to be confident that a library of standardized, short DNA sequences linked to named, vouchered specimens (i.e. DNA barcodes) will enable species-level identification of most multicellular animals and narrow identification to one or few plant species.
So far, it is mostly only scientists who have direct access to DNA secrets. A future in which non-professionals analyze DNA is creeping closer. You can mail a cheek swab to a DNA lab to reconstruct your personal ancestral genealogy ($150) or check paternity ($400). Whole genome sequencing is available too, but to my reading this is too expensive for now ($20,000) and the results and interpretation are not generally useful. Kits for DNA analysis are already in use in high school classrooms and, closer to home, educational DNA barcoding looks to be around the corner. In December 20, 2010, Bio-Rad Laboratories, a scientific supply company, announced a partnership with Coastal Marine BioLabs (CMB) to develop “DNA barcoding instructional activities for classrooms.” CMB has been active in engaging high school students in generating and submitting reference data to the BOLD database. I expect the potential market for DNA barcoding kits in education is large.
This entry was posted on Monday, January 3rd, 2011 at 4:38 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.