November 9, 2009

Barcoding DNA To Monitor Species

Scientists have borrowed a monitoring technique from supermarkets by creating a collection of so-called "DNA barcodes" to understand how the diets of animals would change with global warming.

"There's been an extraordinary growth in the use of the technology," David Schindel, executive secretary of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) told Reuters.

Schnidel said the system has grown since 2007, with now more than 700,000 records from 65,000 species.

The use of barcodes for plant biodiversity was first proposed in 1992. Scientists with the Plant Working Group of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life say the use of DNA barcoding is essential for creating a large-scale inventory that will ensure the conservation of species.

Scientists use a piece of animal tissue or plant material to gather the DNA code of a certain species, which can be documented in a lab.

Researchers are meeting in Mexico from November 7-13 to study how DNA barcoding can help monitor relations "between hunter and prey in the wild and how diets may be changing due to climate change," said Scott Miller, who chairs of the CBOL.

"Tiny soil organisms eat each other, roots, and all sorts of plant and animal debris."

"Knowing what eats what is important to many studies, including investigations into how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are being released from soils into the atmosphere," added Miller.


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