Lengthy article in today's New York Times on "DNA bar coding," a way to identify different species by analysing just one gene in each. (WorldChanging first posted about this in January: link.) Although there's some disagreement amongst taxonomists and biologists that this process would correctly differentiate between very similar species, it holds a lot of promise for speeding up scientific identification of the millions of unclassified plants and animals on Earth.
Scientists are feeling rushed to tag all these critters and plants because they're dying out so fast, a problem DNA bar coding advocates observe without solving:
In April a consortium of major natural history museums and herbariums started the Barcode of Life Initiative, a plan to create a DNA bar coding database that would be linked to identified specimens in their collections.
Such a system, if it works as promised, will help field biologists identify known species and assist immensely in the urgent task of cataloging unknown species before their ranks are decimated by extinction.