[Taxacom] Is this the future?

Szito, Andras andras.szito at agric.wa.gov.au
Thu Jul 18 23:09:07 CDT 2013



TRADITIONAL Owners are helping scientists from UWA and CSIRO conduct a
genetic survey of insects in Kimberley vine thickets for bio-molecular
analysis in bulk-a technique that comes under the heading of

CSIRO evolutionary biologist Dr Owain Edwards says the method is being
developed in response to a legislated requirement for environmental
approvals before resource projects can commence.

He says traditional taxonomic methods used on single sites are
time-consuming, and in a poorly studied region like the Kimberley, give
no indication as to whether a newly-discovered species is locally
endemic or more widespread.

"The system is, I think universally recognised as being inefficient," he

"From a science point of view we feel like it's a band aid approach
[and] it just takes far too long and too much effort to be able to do
that for some of these organisms for which the biodiversity is just
unknown, to a large part, across northern Australia.

"One of those groups is insects, and it is a problem because insects
represent probably over 90 per cent of terrestrial biodiversity in terms
of fauna."

The team
cies-discovery.aspx> has sampled flying and crawling insects from 36
vine thickets in coastal and island locations between Derby and

At each site a tray is prepared with the specimens laid out and
digitally photographed before they are all placed into a combined 'DNA
soup' for bio-molecular analysis.

This produces a database of DNA barcodes that can be compared with
databases from other sites to see if they contain species in common.

"It basically turns on its head the way we used to do it," he says.

"You used to go up there and figure out all of what was present and then
using that information you'd do ecological studies that were focussed on
those that looked interesting.

"That's a very time-consuming process and it's inefficient in that you
are identifying a lot of things that are present that end up not being
ecologically interesting.

"We recognise there's no way we are going to be able to answer all of
the questions by using just a DNA sequence approach.

"We can follow up afterwards with more the standard morphological
taxonomy methods and just focus that effort on the things we have
already identified as being interesting."

He says a voucher specimen of each species is also sent to either the WA
Museum or the Australian National Insect Collection.


The project is funded by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF);
with collaborators from UWA, CSIRO, DEC; and the Dambimangari and
Wunambul Gumbera Indigenous ranger groups.





Best regards



Andras (Andy) Szito



Plant Biosecurity Entomology
Department of Agriculture and Food
Western Australia


Ph:  08 9368 3571/3202

Fax: 08 9368 3808/ 9368 2958 

andras.szito at agric.wa.gov.au <mailto:andras.szito at agric.wa.gov.au> 

www.agric.wa.gov.au <blocked::http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/> 


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