Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Appearance not always enough to identify species

16.11.2010
Linnaean taxonomy is still a cornerstone of biology, but modern DNA techniques have erased many of the established boundaries between species. This has made identifying species difficult in practice, which can cause problems, as shown by a researcher from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

“If you can’t recognise a species by looking at it, this can have serious consequences,” says Emma Vodoti from the Department of Zoology at the University of Gothenburg.

“For example, there is a species of leech that is widely used in medical studies, and it was discovered recently that sometimes a leech was being used that looks the same but has a different genetic make-up. This naturally has an effect on the results of the studies conducted. All work based on having to be able to identify species may have to change.”

350 years after Linnaeus created his system for organising and categorising species of plants and animals, the system is being pulled apart. Newly discovered organisms are still categorised and named in line with his system, but there is a big difference between species described before and after the discovery of DNA. Until the 1980s, scientists had to rely entirely on appearance, anatomy and other characteristics, such as a bird’s song. Since then, genetic patterns have also been taken into account when identifying new species.

“Ironically, these genetic studies have erased many of the established boundaries between species and even disproved the existence of previously described species that have turned out not to be related. Attempts have been made to establish universal boundaries between species by quantifying how much DNA needs to be different between two organisms in order for them to be viewed as separate species, but this doesn’t always work.”

In her thesis, Vodoti looks at the practical problems with species identification today, after having studied the relationship between the genetic relatedness and the appearance and geographical distribution of various sea creatures. The common horse mussel Modiolus modiolus found in the Atlantic and on the west coast of Sweden turns out to be totally different genetically from the one found on the Pacific coast of the USA, despite looking identical.

Nemertean worms may have similarities in appearance but turn out to consist of a hotchpotch of different species, more or less independent of looks. Nemerteans include worms just a few millimetres in length to one of the world’s longest creatures, Lineus longissimus, which can grow up to 15 metres.

“It’s probably impossible to find a universal way of defining, identifying and delimiting species,” says Vodoti. “My thesis shows that there is a need for individual assessment on a case-by-case basis when identifying species, taking account of both appearance and genes.”

Contact:
Emma Vodoti
0730-930639
iktis@hotmail.com

Helena Aaberg | idw
Further information:
http://hdl.handle.net/2077/23294
http://www.gu.se

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Researchers discover a new link to fight billion-dollar threat to soybean production
14.02.2017 | University of Missouri-Columbia

nachricht Important to maintain a diversity of habitats in the sea
14.02.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biocompatible 3-D tracking system has potential to improve robot-assisted surgery

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Real-time MRI analysis powered by supercomputers

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Antibiotic effective against drug-resistant bacteria in pediatric skin infections

17.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>