The DNA Barcode Data Analysis Initiative (DBDAI) Overview

The DNA Barcode Data Analysis Initiative (DBDAI): Analyzing and Interpreting a New Generation of Biological Data

Prospectus for a 24-month international initiative

Background. In the past two years, a series of studies have been published in which "DNA barcoding" was proposed as a tool for differentiating species. Barcoding is based on the assumption that short gene regions evolve at a rate that produces clear interspecific sequence divergence while retaining low intraspecific sequence variability. The cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 mitochondrial region ("COI") has emerged as a suitable barcode region for most animals. Taxonomists are in the process of identifying appropriate gene regions for barcoding other major groups of eukaryotes. Taxonomic studies of a growing number of taxa have shown that the discontinuity in the levels of barcode sequence divergence (both phenetic and diagnostic) match the species boundaries as delineated by morphological and ecological characters. These studies set the stage for a more in-depth analysis of the relationship between DNA barcode patterns and our understanding of speciation processes and mitochondrial evolution.

The Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL; see is an international consortium of about 70 Member Organizations from six continents and more than 35 nations. These include natural history museums, herbaria, biodiversity and conservation organizations, university departments and other research organizations, government agencies and private sector companies. CBOL is devoted to exploring and developing the potential of DNA barcoding to become a tool for taxonomic research and for applications of species-level data to applied problems such as conservation, crop protection and sustainable development. Four Working Groups have been formed by CBOL, including the Data Analysis Working Group (DAWG) chaired by Dr. Michel Veuille, Director of the Department of Systematics and Evolution in the National Museum of Natural History, Paris.

Plans. CBOL and DAWG propose the DNA Barcode Data Analysis Initiative (DBDAI) , a 24-month international interdisciplinary program of work that will bring together taxonomists, population geneticists, statisticians, applied mathematicians and computer scientists. The overarching goals of this program of work will be to better understand the relationship between DNA barcode data and population-level genetic processes, and to develop the analytical tools needed to interpret, analyze and archive DNA barcode data . A further goal will be to explore both the potential and limitations of barcoding in the study of natural populations, especially populations of pests and endangered species. The initiative's goals are:

Some specific questions that will be addressed during the initiative are:

Data interpretation is likely to require different kinds of tools at different steps of analytic protocols. For instance, phylogenomics, multivariate statistics, coalescent theory, learning machines, assignment statistics may all combine to achieve a satisfying result. A challenge of the DAWG is to put together theoreticians from several fields who do not usually work together, and who do not usually work with taxonomists .

Program of Work. Two planning meetings were held (DIMACS, Rutgers University, 26 September 2005; National Museum of Natural History, Paris, 15 October 2005) with the support of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life. Participants agreed that the goal of the DAWG will be the development of a package of protocols and software needed to analyze, interpret and visualize barcode data. A Steering Committee of [five?] individuals was formed at that time. The Steering Committee has been charged to aid and involve researchers from two main fields: population geneticists and statisticians/mathematicians. The participants in the planning meetings, which included all members of the Steering Committee, agreed that:

The two planning meetings produced the following six-phase Program of Work:

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Document last modified on March 21, 2006.