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Scientists strive to 'barcode' species

TAIPEI, Taiwan, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Scientists from around the world are meeting in Taiwan to discuss using DNA barcodes to identify and distinguish biological species.

The Second International Barcode of Life Conference, running through Friday, involves a worldwide effort to revolutionize the identification of species by using DNA barcoding.

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Similar to the barcodes that identify items at a grocery store, a DNA barcode has potential applications in food safety, disease prevention and better environmental monitoring. There are more than 280,000 DNA barcode records representing about 31,000 species.

"DNA barcoding is emerging as a global standard for identifying species in basic taxonomic research, biodiversity studies and in government regulation," said David Schindel, executive secretary of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life, an organization based at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

Each of the world's estimated 1.8 million species is genetically unique. DNA barcoding rapidly sequences the DNA from a single, standardized gene on the DNA molecule, officials said. The technique can quickly identify species from larval forms or tissue samples that can sometimes be nearly impossible to identify through traditional methods.

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