Monday, May 9, 2011

Butterflies, moths get barcode treatment

Canadian researchers are 'barcoding' Australia's moths and butterflies as part of a project to comprehensively map the planet's biodiversity.
The Canadian team proposed the new system of species identification and discovery in 2003. The method uses a very short genetic sequence from a standard part of the genome, and is similar to the way a supermarket scanner distinguishes products using the black stripes of the Universal Product Code.
The work at ANIC, in collaboration with the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), is contributing to the International Barcode of Life (IBoL) project. The IBoL reference library currently contains records for more than 100,000 species and their aim is to have 500,000 species barcoded by 2015.
ANIC is the first national collection to integrate the new barcoding approach for a major group of insects.
The collection's Director, Dr John LaSalle, says DNA barcoding is like 'genetic fingerprinting'.
"What's different about this blitz is that we said let's take a real priority look at Australian moths and butterflies," says LaSalle.

Rapid decision making tool

For the DNA analysis, one leg is taken off each specimen and ground up. The researchers then extract the DNA to record each specimen's unique genetic code. The results, together with a photo and other details, are added to the ALA and ANIC databases.

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