Plant and Animal Species Identified FAST with Barcodes

April 26, 2012
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As a barcode labels manufacturer Tanto Labels is always  interested in the use and application of barcode labels across business and society.  This story from the scientific community is not really about barcodes as we know them, but more about the boffins helping explain  a complex idea using a  familiar  every-day product.

Biologists want to use a similar process to barcodes to aid rapid identification of plant and animal life.  An initiative dubbed  German Barcode of Life (GBOL)  is bringing together  zoologists and botanists in Germany.

In the DNA of living beings, scientists  have identified sections as DNA barcodes that, while being almost identical within a certain species, differ among the various species,” explained Prof. Dr. Dietmar Quandt from the Nees Institute for Biodiversity of Plants at the University of Bonn. “Based on these markers, we can then identify species unambiguously and relatively fast.” The result of this analysis resembles barcodes at the supermarket; only that it does not come in black and white, but in four colours, with each one corresponding to one of the four letters of the genetic code.

Barcodes and the genetic make-up

In classical biological taxonomy, animals and plants are identified by their external characteristics. “It is in species of a genus that resemble each other very closely, such as sedges, that definite identification can be a very long process,” reported Prof. Quandt, Speaker for the botanical project within the GBOL Initiative. “In addition, we have to rely on competent experts here, who unfortunately are a dying breed nationally.” Fully automated sequencing of DNA, however, allows identifying plants much faster. “Besides, we do not need flowering and complete plants,” added Stefanie Winter, one of Prof. Quandt’s doctoral candidates. “A tiny fragment, e.g., from a leaf, is sufficient for identifying the species based on its genetic markers.”

Read the full story here.

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