DNA barcoding is the use of a short DNA sequence or sequences from a standardized locus (or loci) as a species identification tool. There are many potential uses for such a tool, for example;
- identification of different life stages, e.g. seeds and seedlings
- identification of fragments of plant material
- verification of herbal medicines/foodstuffs
- biosecurity and trade in controlled species
- inventory and ecological surveys
Barcoding of animals is already in progress using the cytochrome c oxidase 1 (CO1 or cox1 ) gene. However in land plants, substitution rates in this gene are much slower, meaning that there is often no sequence variation among species within a genus, and therefore this gene is not suitable as a plant barcode.
'Establishing a standard DNA barcode for land plants'
Kew is a member of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL), an international barcoding initiative, and an active participant in the CBOL Plant Working Group. Together with ten other organizations and support from the Alfred P. Sloan and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations, we are investigating DNA regions for their potential as barcodes for all land plant species. This project is divided into two phases: phase 1, completed in December 2005, was a survey of regions that have potential as barcodes, and phase 2 is to 'ground test' the most promising regions in a series of parallel case studies that incorporates representatives of all major land plant lineages. Phase 2 is now nearing completion, with a meeting being held at the New York Botanical Garden in January 2007 to discuss the results so far and the next steps in proposing a standard DNA barcode for land plants.
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