Such expressions as that famous one of Linnæus, and which we often meet with in a more or less concealed form, that the characters do not make the genus, but that the genus gives the characters, seem to imply that something more is included in our classification, than mere resemblance. I believe that something more is included; and that propinquity of descent,—the only known cause of the similarity of organic beings,—is the bond, hidden as it is by various degrees of modification, which is partially revealed to us by our classifications (Darwin, 1859, p. 413f).

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Adventures with my DNA Barcoder

"But humanity is bioilliterate. Yes, there is a high priest for the name and natural history of some species. That person, however, is almost never standing by your side. But with Google, can you get it? No, there is no hole in your computer or handheld into which to insert the biobit to link through Google. Who is going to give you that name in the dark, the rain, the backyard, or the rain forest? True bioliteracy is being able to link what humanity knows to the biodiversity in hand, eye, or mouth, and build on it. What is the cost to let all seven billion of us read wild biodiversity, now? The barcorder in the back pocket" (Janzen, 2010, Biotropica, 42:540-542).

Thursday, 25th
I am so excited! Today I bought my DNA Barcoder from the gift shop at my local natural history museum. It comes with a two page booklet that tells me I need 6 AAA batteries and something to barcode.

Friday, 26th
I went down to the university to show my new barcoder to my sister. She needs lots of fresh tissue to do her molecular work and always complains that her specimens are either too old or contaminated. "Not with this!" I told her. She looked at me and my barcoder and started laughing. Stuck-up cow.

Saturday, 27th
Today is my first barcoding day (it rained all week, so there was nothing to barcode). I barcoded my cat, which it turns out, is 'human'. Perhaps it's because humans and cats are closely related? Perhaps I need something more distantly related?

Sunday, 28th
I barcoded an ant that I found crawling behind the sofa. The barcoder tells me it's a fungus. I see no other ants. Later on I find a honey bee trapped in my kitchen window. It comes up as a 'geranium'. The barcoder really needs to be calibrated or something.

Wednesday, 1st
Finally, a hot and sunny day! I tried to entice a bird with bread crumbs. No luck.

Thursday, 2nd
Couldn't get close enough to the house sparrows in my park to barcode them. I barcoded various trees in the arboretum. Amazing! The barcoder gets it right every time. There was only one plant sign in the whole park that was wrong!

Sunday, 5th
What a day! Yesterday morning I found a whip snake sunning itself on my porch. I managed to barcode it before it bit me in self defense. Luckily the hospital knew which anti-venom to use because my trusty barcoder got it right again!

Tuesday, 7th
I’m going to be famous! I barcoded a cicada and found that it was 7 different species! I rushed down to the local natural history museum to tell them of the news. Perhaps they can name a news species after me? Apparently the museum barcodes species from all over world and no longer employs taxonomists (the ones who describe new species). A barcoding technician pointed out several local amateur entomological groups I could join. "That's where you find taxonomists now" he said. Perhaps I’ll try Google.

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