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The DNA Barcode – Tests could revolutionise how we identify hundreds of thousands of species of life.


It may sound like something from a science fiction novel, but within five years, scientists are hoping to develop a hand-held DNA device that works in a similar fashion to swiping barcodes. The DNA testing device, if successful, could identify the insects eating your lettuces, the droppings left in a farmer’s hen house, or the species of fish you’re about to eat in a restaurant.

DNA Testing – Genetic Barcodes

Whether you want to identify a Tasmanian tiger or a type of spider, you might just be able to if the DNA device works to plan. The project to develop the DNA testing device is an international one, called the International Barcode for Life Project. It’s hoped the DNA testing device will become commonplace, not just for the realm of geneticists, scientists and anthropologists. The idea that we can barcode hundreds of thousands of species sounds pretty daunting; however, developments in DNA testing and DNA analysis in recent years has been groundbreaking. Paul Herbert, the director of the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding told the Canadian press: “We want every kid to get one in their Christmas stocking,”

DNA Samples For Simple Testing

Essentially the goal of the project is to create a library holding DNA samples and barcodes of 500,000 species – the device would work in the same way a DNA test would, by matching DNA samples to identify the species. The project is involving 25 nations and expected to cost $150 million. Already Australia’s botanical gardens and museums have DNA tested 200 species of butterflies and moths, as well as hundreds of fish and bird species for the barcoding project. The huge DNA bank will mean scientists will be able to identify species across the globe using a DNA swab and DNA test – the hand-held device however would make the DNA testing incredibly simple.

“It could be a hair or a feather” Paul Herbert told the press. The device would scan the DNA and automatically check it with the library.

Such a hand-held DNA testing device could prove invaluable for some professions such as custom officials, vets and environmentalists. And Canadians would be able to use the devices on animal droppings so they can clarify reports on Tasmanian tiger sightings, for example.

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