DNA barcoding in Taipei, Part 1

Spent the night talking human disease vectors with Daniel Boakye, a Ghanaian biologist (I call him a mosquito man). I'm in Taipei, Taiwan attending the 2nd International Barcode of Life Conference. What initially attracted me to the concept of linkurl:barcoding;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/22424/ is the sheer magnitude of taxonomic ignorance under which all biologists operate. Science has identified only about 1.8 million of the estimated 10 million species of plant, animal, fun

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Sep 16, 2007
Spent the night talking human disease vectors with Daniel Boakye, a Ghanaian biologist (I call him a mosquito man). I'm in Taipei, Taiwan attending the 2nd International Barcode of Life Conference. What initially attracted me to the concept of linkurl:barcoding;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/22424/ is the sheer magnitude of taxonomic ignorance under which all biologists operate. Science has identified only about 1.8 million of the estimated 10 million species of plant, animal, fungus, and bacteria on this planet. DNA barcoding, which could quickly and efficiently distinguish species by sequencing one snippet of one gene, may help to rapidly find the missing parts of Earth's biodiversity. But Boakye and I, sitting on a park bench at linkurl:Academia Sinica,;http://www.sinica.edu.tw/main_e.shtml the Taiwanese institution where one of the chromosomes in the linkurl:rice genome;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/20310/ was sequenced back in 2002, talked about the real applicability of barcoding, not the purely Linnaean aspect of the technology. Talk about cutting to the...
e 2nd International Barcode of Life Conference. What initially attracted me to the concept of linkurl:barcoding;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/22424/ is the sheer magnitude of taxonomic ignorance under which all biologists operate. Science has identified only about 1.8 million of the estimated 10 million species of plant, animal, fungus, and bacteria on this planet. DNA barcoding, which could quickly and efficiently distinguish species by sequencing one snippet of one gene, may help to rapidly find the missing parts of Earth's biodiversity. But Boakye and I, sitting on a park bench at linkurl:Academia Sinica,;http://www.sinica.edu.tw/main_e.shtml the Taiwanese institution where one of the chromosomes in the linkurl:rice genome;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/20310/ was sequenced back in 2002, talked about the real applicability of barcoding, not the purely Linnaean aspect of the technology. Talk about cutting to the quick. Boakye spoke about the different ecological proclivities of what is considered a single mosquito species, linkurl:__Anopheles gambiae__;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/20745/ , and how transmission rates and epidemiology differs between different forms of the vector. He said that knowing what form of Anopheles is present in an area will greatly aid control efforts by dictating which tactics are to be employed in which specific habitats. This promises to be an interesting meeting, as I have overheard other conversations between attending scientists that hint at the sexiness of identifying unrecognized species among previously categorized taxa. I plan to put the "why bother" question to every researcher I meet here. I imagine that their answers will be as varied as the life forms we find sharing this planet with us.

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