Next-Generation Technology Benefits DNA Barcoding

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A faster, cheaper way to capture more information about nature’s diversity is the main benefit of next-generation technology described by a team of researchers including U of G biologists in a paper published this week in Molecular Ecology Resources.

The group has shown that next-generation sequencers plowing through numerous genetic samples at a time may vastly improve DNA barcoding technology developed at Guelph and used worldwide to catalogue life on Earth, says co-author Prof. Mehrdad Hajibabaei, Department of Integrative Biology. He belongs to U of G’s Biodiversity Institute of Ontario.

Massively parallel sequencing allows researchers to analyze DNA samples much faster than conventional sequencing technology that examines one sample at a time. “This is a technological advancement in producing DNA barcodes or genetic information from single specimens,” he says.

The Guelph-based International Barcode of Life project is the largest-ever project in biodiversity genomics, involving more than 1,000 researchers in 26 countries. Those researchers are using a telltale piece of genetic material to identify individual species of animals, plants and fungi.

Hajibabaei’s lab has used next-generation sequencing to identify numerous organisms collected in bulk samples of water or soil used to monitor the health of ecosystems, such as Alberta’s Wood Buffalo National Park, a world heritage site.