Message 2003-03-0004: Re: Fwd: Animal 'bar codes' to take over from Latin names

Sun, 09 Mar 2003 09:22:11 -0800 (PST)

[Previous by date - Re: Note 9.4.1]
[Next by date - Re: Animal 'bar codes' to take over from Latin names]
[Previous by subject - Re: Fw: languages in PhyloCode]
[Next by subject - Re: Fwd: Gender of species names?]

Date: Sun, 09 Mar 2003 09:22:11 -0800 (PST)
From: "Jaime A. Headden" <>
To: List PhyloCode <>
Subject: Re: Fwd: Animal 'bar codes' to take over from Latin names

Posted from the Dinosaur Mailing List (my reply to follow):

--- Ronald Orenstein <> wrote:
> Well, this should be fun for palaeontologists....
> >--------------------------------------
> >Animal 'bar codes' to take over from Latin names
> >By Roger Dobson,
> >March 9 2003
> >
> >The names don't exactly trip off the tongue. But the official Latin 
> >monikers used to catalogue the world's animal species are about to be 
> >replaced  with the sort of bar code normally seen on a baked bean tin.
> >
> >For the past two and a half centuries, scientists examining new species
> >have allocated them to the right family with a description based on a 
> >Latin root  making sure, of course, not to confuse an Arbitrarus 
> >conventicus with a Revisionus conventicus  and also carefully
> catalogued 
> >them according to their appearance.
> >
> >But there are fewer and fewer people able to do this work, and it is
> also 
> >painfully slow. Over the past 250 years, only a modest 1.2 million
> species 
> >have been described and named. With an estimated 10 million animal
> species 
> >still to be recorded, there are fears that many could disappear before 
> >they are properly catalogued.
> >
> >Today 40 leading scientists involved in taxonomy  the classification
> of 
> >organisms  will meet in New York with the aim of setting up an 
> >international bar-coding system using individual DNA as labels for new 
> >species. Existing species will get their own bar code, too.
> >
> >With the right technology, says a report co-authored by scientists at
> the 
> >Natural History Museum, in London, up to 1,000 species a day could be
> bar 
> >coded by just one institution. And that, say scientists, will make it 
> >possible to catalogue animal life on the planet within two decades,
> 1,000 
> >or so years sooner than under the current system.
> >
> >Scientists say that the retail industry's coding system employs 10
> digits 
> >to create 100 billion different combinations, or bar codes, that are in
> >turn allocated to specific products ranging from canned beans to
> electronics.
> >
> >DNA is also encoded, using four chemical bases  adenine (A), cytosine 
> >(C), guanine (G) and thymine (T)  and the genomes of most species are 
> >millions of these nucleotides long. The sequence for every living
> organism 
> >is different, and just using a fraction of the sequence would provide
> more 
> >than one billion bar code options.
> >
> >Although new species may have a bar code only, existing species will
> keep 
> >their Latin names too. The bar code for an African elephant (Loxodonta 
> >africana), for example, would be made up of thick and thin lines 
> >representing the four chemical bases using the letters 
> >AACACTGTATCTATTATTTG, while the domestic cat would be
> >
> >"The proper naming of species has become a serious bottleneck," says 
> >Professor Paul Hebert, of the University of Guelph, in Canada, who will
> be 
> >at today's meeting. "I do think it is a serious problem, and I believe
> the 
> >move to DNA-based taxonomy will lead to a new approach to the
> description 
> >of species. After the bar coding, those who then want to name and
> describe 
> >species can come along over the next 2,000 years or so  because that's
> >how long it would take  and do so. What we are saying is that there is
> a 
> >need to bring modern technology to the task of species recognition. We 
> >also suggest that nature has been kind enough to embed every life form 
> >with a 'bar code' and all we need to do is read it."
> >
> >Dr Richard Thomas, of the Natural History Museum, and co-author of a 
> >report published this week in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, said:
> "We 
> >think DNA will be very useful for groups of species that have a lot of 
> >diversity in them. With the use of DNA, a species could be described
> and 
> >catalogued. Some groups suggest that a DNA bar code would be
> sufficient, 
> >but I believe that we would still want to come back and name them, 
> >possibly at a later date.
> >
> >"Another advantage of bar codes is that the information is digital and
> not 
> >influenced by subjective assessments. It would be reproducible at any
> time 
> >and by any person, speaking any language."
> >
> >The report reveals the speed with which bar coding  illustrated above
> in 
> >mock-up form for a polar bear and an African elephant  could be done.
> >
> >The report states: "Establishment of a DNA facility that could
> routinely 
> >handle 1,000 samples per day would cost approximately as much as a 
> >facility that runs a transmission and a scanning electron microscope.
> The 
> >material costs for each sample, including DNA extraction and sequencing
> of 
> >two independent regions, would be five euros per sample."
> >
> >Just what Darwin would make of it is not clear, but Dr Thomas believes
> he 
> >would be in favour: "I think he would really love it," he said.
> --
> Ronald I. Orenstein                           Phone: (905) 820-7886
> International Wildlife Coalition              Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
> 1825 Shady Creek Court
> Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 3W2

  And this is better how? Please, as for the subjectivity test, there are
things called double-blind or Chinese Curtain tests, you know. How will
this affect the nomenclature and reference struture of fossil species
without DNA or taxa with incomplete DNA? I hope these guys know what the
ramifications of their little system involves. I'll check out the current
TREE at the college this afternoon. This should be most interesting....


Jaime A. Headden

  Little steps are often the hardest to take.  We are too used to making leaps in the face of adversity, that a simple skip is so hard to do.  We should all learn to walk soft, walk small, see the world around us rather than zoom by it.

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)

Do you Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Tax Center - forms, calculators, tips, more


Feedback to <> is welcome!