Every Species of Animal and Plant to Be Given a `Barcode'
Steve Connor Science Editor, The Independent (London, England)
AN AMBITIOUS project to take a genetic "barcode" of every animal and plant begins today in an attempt to identify and label the 10 million species on Earth.
Biologists said yesterday that the plan to give every species its own barcode - made from a stretch of DNA unique to each life form - will help them to understand the bewildering diversity of life.
The DNA barcode will represent a segment of a gene that differs from one species to the next but is almost identical to all members of the same species.
DNA barcodes look superficially like supermarket barcodes and will work in much the same way in helping field biologists to carry out an audit of life by distinguishing between closely related species.
Less than a fifth of the estimated 10 million species of plants and animals have been formally named and classified and many experts fear thousands are at risk of becoming extinct before they are identified.
Scientists hope to name the rest of the unknown species by 2010 as part of the international Barcoding of Life project, said Richard Lane, director of science at the Natural History Museum in London. "We don't actually know what [species are] here so we can't possibly know what we are losing," Dr Lane said yesterday.
The barcode for animals is based on a stretch of DNA within a key gene found in the tiny "power stations" of the cell called the mitochondria, which contain the only genetic material outside the cell's nucleus. Analysing the sequence of genetic "letters" that makes up this mitochondrial gene gives a sequence of barcode stripes which is unique to most species.
Across humans the sequence is identical in all but two of the 648 letters of the gene, and there are 60 other letters that separate us from …
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Publication information: Article title: Every Species of Animal and Plant to Be Given a `Barcode'. Contributors: Steve Connor Science Editor - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: February 1, 2005. Page number: 16,17. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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