GUELPH, Ontario - To conduct DNA testing of fish, the Globe hired the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph. The institute, which is home to a 26-nation consortium called the International Barcode of Life, uses a novel method of genetic analysis to quickly and inexpensively identify species.
The method compares a snippet of a specimen’s DNA against an existing DNA library to identify the species. Scientists use a fragment of a gene found in a cell’s mitochondria that is short enough to be quickly sequenced, but long enough to vary significantly between species. The technique is called DNA barcoding because, just as a supermarket scanner reads a barcode to distinguish a can of beans from a carton of milk, the DNA snippet can separate one species from another.