We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.

The full article is available here as HTML.

Press Ctrl-C to copy

The simple commercial technology of barcoding could change the naming and classification of organisms forever.

The Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL), an international initiative drawing together major natural history museums, botanical gardens and universities, wants to 'tag' every organism on Earth. The initiative has a range of applications — from biodiversity research and enforcing food laws to protecting wildlife and even biodefence.

In this article in Science, Eliot Marshall reveals that monumental as the task appears, CBOL is optimistic about its chances of success. The price of reading the genetic barcodes is dropping. Moreover, the push has already begun. Plans to barcode 8,000 plant species in Costa Rica have just been announced.

The standard method for barcoding animals uses a specific 'fingerprint' based on a gene known as COI. It relies on the fact that in most animals, COI varies more between than within species.

However, a different method is needed for plants, and in amphibians the COI gene varies significantly among individuals within a species. Another obstacle is finding the money — research groups may eventually need to tap into government budgets to scale up their efforts.

Link to full article in Science

Reference: Science 307, 1037

Read more about biodiversity in SciDev.Net's biodiversity dossier

Visit SciDev.Net's new biodiversity 'facts and figures' section, which gives the latest data on the extent and distribution of the world's biodiversity.