Barcoding is the term applied to a technology that is being developed to speed the identification of specimens of living things. So far, identification and classification of animals has progressed furthest.

Although each individual in most species has a unique genome sequence, the differences between individuals of one species are much smaller than the differences between individuals of different species. Thus determining the genome sequence of a specimen should enable it to be positively classified if the sequences of other members of its species are already in a database.

However, sequencing entire genomes of animals is an enormous undertaking. (Most mammals have some 3 billion base pairs of DNA.) A more practical approach is to settle on the sequence of a single gene that is found in all animal life.

The one that has been chosen for animals is the gene, COI, encoding the largest subunit of cytochrome c oxidase. [View]



Early Results

Barcoding analysis of several hundred different birds has shown that barcode results usually reflect the species identification based on more conventional criteria. However, a few cases have arisen where:

Looking Ahead

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7 January 2019