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Why Barcoding?

Similar to the barcodes you see in the grocery store, DNA barcodes are genetic markers used to identify species. For animals, barcodes are short (about 650 base pairs) DNA sequences from a specific region within the cytochrome c oxidase (CO1) gene in the mitochondrial DNA. The barcode sequence can be used to identify all life stages of an organism, uncover cryptic species, or even identify new species.

The Barcode of Life Database is a public library of vouchered barcode sequences. The goal of an international consortium of scientists is to barcode every species. When UCSD ecology students collected arthropods, however, only 17.5% had good species matches in the library. An inventory of life is possible, but we are just beginning the effort.

Detailed protocols for DNA barcoding can be found at the Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center's DNA Barcoding 101.