Reading the Barcodes of Life

I have previously posted on Barcoding Insects, here and here. A Barcode is a DNA sequence that has similar (conserved) stretches of DNA code interspersed with DNA sequence that is unique to a species. The unique sequence is diagnostic of a species and allows unambiguous identification of an insect species. The Fourth International Barcode of Life symposium starts this week in Australia. Scientists from around the world will gather to discuss projects and attend workshops.

Barcode of Life is a network that allows researchers to share data and build data bases of barcodes. Scientists can work independently to isolate DNA from species of interest and read the Barcodes. The Barcodes are published in a searchable database that can be accessed by the entire scientific community.

This enterprise is only possible because of advances in DNA sequencing and advances in Bioinformatics, a new science that is about a decade old. Bioinformatics uses computer algorithms to analyze and compare DNA sequences. Bioinformatics utilizes computers to quickly provide researchers with answers to questions that would be extremely tedious or impossible to do without the aid of a computer.

Data bases of DNA sequences from insects are enormous. The Lepidoptera Barcode of Life database currently (11/27/11) boasts of over 65,000 barcode sequences from Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths). Similar large databases are being developed for other groups of organisms. This information will allow scientists to answer new types of questions and can be a useful for rapid identification of pest species intercepted at ports of entry for international trade.

Barcoding is one of the many new tools that scientists routinely use to investigate insects.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, Environment, Invasive Species. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Reading the Barcodes of Life

  1. Pingback: DNA Detection for Inspection | Living With Insects Blog

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