Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Year of Biodiversity

     Did you know that the United Nations has declared 2010 The International Year of Biodiversity? According to a short National Geographic article in the May issue, Pp 30-35, Paul Hebert, University of Guelphe in Ontario, spent 5 year in the 1970s barcoding moths and butterflies from New Gunea. Overwhelmed by the 2,000 different species he moved to water fleas where there are only 200 species known. These barcodes are made by coding for the 600 spots on the CO1 gene which codes for ATP, a necessary enzyme in virtually all multicellular lifeforms on this world. Those 600 spots will be occupied by one of 4 different DNA bases. These barcodes are different among all creatures almost universally. This allows every multicellular creature on earth to have a different barcode. Researchers around the world are now attempting to barcode 500,000 species, out of the 1.7 million already named species from around the world. The plan is to have all these 1.7 million species barcoded by the year 2025. There is some controversy with this goal, some scientists feeling we should be working on identifying and naming more species that are unknown at this time. Some scientists, however, think that barcoding will become readily accessible and that DNA readers may allow even non scientists to barcode species that they have in their own backyard, producing more information about known pest species and possibly identifying those unknowns more quickly.

     I would like to have a similar barcoder for people. Wouldn't it  be cool to barcode that person down the bar from you to determine what species he is. Is he an introvert or an extrovert; is she outgoing or shy; are those two honest citizens or are they criminals (or in today's current events) Russian spies? Will that person be my friend or my enemy? Barcoding could certainly help us in these relations.
     Today we have literally thousands of dragonflies flitting around our backyard near Lake Michigan.  I did some research and identified
these large 3 inch green and purple dragonflies as the common green darner. These harmless but impressive dragonflies have a life cycle much like the monarch butterfly. The adults migrate south in the fall. The adults winter over in the south and then start a new line of offspring which slowly work their way north until a generation reproduces in our area. So these adults are no doubt starting their migration. We welcome them for the mosquitoes they are eating as they fly about our backyard.
Female green darner dragonfly

Yellow swallowtail butterfly

Bumble Bee

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