A DNA Lifeboat
It never really did make sense to me that EVERY ANIMAL IN CREATION could be crammed onto a boat. Of course, with magic and mysticism, even the utterly absurd becomes obvious in the believer’s mind. It’s a tragically overvalent meme, for certain.
On the other hand, The Scientist suggests today that a DNA Barcode might be a way to record biodiversity AND keep us safe from otherwise unidentifiable toxic species in the food chain. Moreover, this repository could be made part of the suggested Lunar Backup Drive for planet Earth.<blockquote>Microbiologists have long been using short stretches of genetic material, such as the ribosomal 16S gene, to differentiate bacterial species, and taxonomists have used molecular data to complement ecologic and morphologic information for decades.
The global, standardized nature of DNA barcode, however, is only in its adolescence.</blockquote>Yet …<blockquote>Since 2003, several barcoding projects have probed the mitochondrial DNA of everything from birds3 and fish4 to leeches5 and mosquitoes,6 and they found a similar gap between intraspecific and interspecific variation. These validation studies follow a general formula: Take species that are already well described and delineated through morphology, ecology, and other characters, collect their CO1 barcodes, and see how closely the traditional classification matches with that derived from the barcode.</blockquote>And ultimately …<blockquote>Because it works with short segments of DNA, barcoding has the potential to quickly and cheaply identify processed animal or plant products that may pose a danger to public health. It may also identify and better control cryptic pest species, such as mosquitoes or fruit flies, which cause widespread disease or wreak economic havoc in many parts of the world. In the clinical setting, it also has the potential to rapidly identify biologic pathogens in ailing patients.</blockquote>Of course, these are only soundbytes, see the full article for details.