Taxonomy With Technology

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at
Mon Mar 25 22:41:57 EST 2002

Uber-taxonomy: It wasn't clear whether you thought this was a good thing
or a bad thing.

About 30+ years ago when someone produced an image of 2D wholebody
chromatography of a fly,
I posed the question to the Systematics Discussion Group of the AMNH
whether anyone thought that you could use such techniques for species
level identification. I was thinking "Drosophila".  Neither the bird nor
mammal people were impressed with the idea of a mouse-squash technique,
and of course DNA-hybridization techniques made chromatography passe,
but I wonder whyether pattern recognition ever made it for specimen
identification of creatures (we do use such chemical fingerprinting in
forensics to identify the source of certain chemical mixtures).

Mike Gochfeld

Joel Lyons wrote:

> Well, lookee here, there's something out there called
> the All Species Foundation.  They are trying to penetrate
> taxonomy with technology (this article goes on to
> describe taxonomy as a disciple so reactionary that it
> still describes things in latin, humph).  All Species wants
> to change that.  Their goal, with private funds, is to take
> all of the world's taxonomic projects and sythesize them
> into one uber-catalog of every living thing on earth ... even
> viruses ... within 25 years.  E. O. Wilson is on the All
> Species Science Board, by the by.  Here's the really cool
> part:  Lepidopterists (stand up and take a bow), for
> example, now have access to the pattern recognition
> software currently used to spot known terrorists at
> the airport.  It can identify thousands of varieties of
> butterfly by wing  markings alone.  And somewhere down
> the road:  The ultimate fieldworker's species identification
> tool:  the disposable gene sequencer.
> audere scire!
> Joel
> Taken from article by
> Jennifer Kahn in the
> NRDC's current issue.
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