Using DNA “Barcodes” to Protect Biodiversity and Endangered Species

DNA Bar-Coding Could Rewrite Book of LifeCassowary, Queensland, Australia - Copyright 2004 Renate Leahy
By Stephen Leahy

Feb 19 (IPS) – Fifteen new species of birds have been discovered in North America following the first ever genetic analysis of nearly all 690 known species. A similar DNA profiling or “bar-coding” of Guyana’s 87 bat species revealed an additional six genetically distinct bats.

These new species are nearly indistinguishable to human eyes and ears from known species but the analysis shows their DNA evolved along different paths millions of years previously, according research published Sunday in British journal Molecular Ecology Notes.

“DNA bar-coding will transform efforts to protect and conserve the world’s biodiversity,” said Paul Herbert of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at Canada’s University of Guelph.

“You can’t protect it if you can’t identify it,” Herbert told IPS.

The habitat of a North American shorebird called the Solitary Sandpiper is under tremendous pressure from land development and climate change. It was not previously known to have two distinct forms, yet their DNA reveals that two genetically different groups diverged about 2.5 million years ago.

“How can you develop strategies to preserve highly different genetic entities if you don’t know they’re there? Our work is providing the first molecular evidence of some of these splits,” Herbert said.

Protecting and conserving biological diversity is important because living organisms play central roles in all ecosystems that provide services like clean air and water that all life, including humans, depends on. And it is the diversity of interacting species that is the key to the health and resilience of ecosystems.

See complete story DNA Bar-Coding Could Rewrite Book of Life

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