Barcoding Life

I had written about DNA Fingerprinting and its various applications – fighting diseases & contamination, fighting fraud and genography.  In the WSJ last friday edition, Sharon Begley wrote about another interesting use of DNA fingerprinting technology for barcoding plants – Science Journal: Nature lover’s dream: a botanical ‘bar code’ for quick plant IDs. [Un-DRM-ed version] In this fascinating article, she talks about the quest for finding the plant equivalent of the enzyme cytochrome oxidase that serves as the barcode for the animal kingdom. It turns out that the barcoding of the animal kingdom is well under way  under a  global project titled  “Consortium for the barcode of life” There is an excellent document on this site that details the 10 reasons why we need a barcode [PDF] of life. To me, the reasons, democratizing access (no.6) and make expertise go further (no.5) have far reaching implications. Armed with a handheld life-barcode reader of the type described in this document, almost anyone can spot new species and rapidly expand the database of species that we have identified so far (reason no.8 captures this idea somewhat).  Let’s hope scientists can find the barcode for plants quickly. Flashback:
My previous post inspired by Sharon Begley on Vocal Signatures help penguins identify their offspring.