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Plant Bar Code Soon to Become Reality

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Science  31 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5940, pp. 526
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_526

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DNA bar-coding, the ambitious idea of using a short piece of DNA to tell every species in the world apart, is already a powerful tool for scientists studying animals. But for plant biologists, the idea has for the most part remained a pipe dream, stalling systematic studies of plants and efforts to conserve flora. So far, every plant DNA sequence proposed as a marker has had problems, and the search for the "right" plant bar code has proven controversial. But at last, a solution appears within reach. A paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes two genetic sequences, or loci, taken from chloroplast genes called matK and rbcL, as the official plant bar code. Although the new bar code works for some kinds of plants better than others, it identified 72% of all species on average and grouped 100% of plants into the correct genus.