DNA barcoding in Taipei, Part 3

Played a rousing game of linkurl:table tennis;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxZ-5wELSJM tonight. And by "rousing game"

By | September 19, 2007

Played a rousing game of linkurl:table tennis;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxZ-5wELSJM tonight. And by "rousing game" I mean to say that I was soundly drubbed by a Taiwanese gentleman (his name escapes me) who appears to be some sort of national champion. Even my scorching serves were parried with effortless flicks of his supple wrist. Though my game may have been tough, it was nothing compared to the game that linkurl:plant molecular biologists;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/22227/ seeking to barcode the planet's flora must play. I learned today during the conference that while zoologists chug along, linkurl:barcoding;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53591/ more and more animal species with the use of the convenient CO1 gene marker, plant biologists are not so lucky. Firstly, plants from bryophytes to linkurl:angiosperms;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/18796/ do not play the CO1 game. The mitochondrial gene region that works so well as a barcode in animals is virtually invariable across plant taxa. Thoughts are that this may be due to variable linkurl:speciation rates;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/14251/ in plants as well as the common occurrence of linkurl:hybridization.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/21522/ Those are just the realities of plant biology. So, after much searching for suitable candidates, plant biologists have come up with a suite of gene regions that might serve as effective plant barcode markers. It turns out that three or four regions could work as the plant DNA barcode, explained linkurl:Santiago Madrinan,;http://botanica.uniandes.edu.co/integrantes/samadrin.htm a Columbian plant biologist. Though a plant barcode is by no means perfected, he said, the effort to quickly and cheaply sequence Earth's plants is hindered by the fact that plant biologists simply cannot agree on which complex of gene regions to use as the plant barcode. Other conference attendees have told me that the plant barcoding community is mired in politics, with certain investigators positing that their own gene region complexes (and no one else's) must be the plant barcode moving forward. This game continues as plant barcoders lag behind their zoologist colleagues. The plant working group is scheduled to meet on Friday after the close of the conference proper. I'll do my best to sit in on their meeting to catch a glimpse of the tension that marks their efforts. Until then, I'll work on my table tennis game.

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