PerspectiveEcology

Barcoding of Plants and Fungi

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Science  07 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5941, pp. 682-683
DOI: 10.1126/science.1176906

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Summary

Rapid identification of biological specimens or fragments of biological origin has always been desirable, but has rarely been possible owing to a shortage of natural history specialists. Very often, for a particular group of organisms there is only one expert worldwide, and no one person can be expected to identify every organism that is relevant to ecological studies. Also, environmental samples (for example, from water or soil) that contain mixtures of minute organisms with few morphological traits pose great identification challenges. Short, standardized DNA regions—or “barcodes”—have been used to identify biological material from many groups of animals (13). The barcoding approach also has great potential for identifying plants (4, 5) and fungi (6), but faces different challenges when applied to these groups.