National geographic just published online a series of articles and photos illustrating the Biocode project. This initiative seeks to document all the species living on Moorea, a small island in French Polynesia. Our lab is involved with a big chunk of this diversity as we are processing all the marine invertebrates. The originality of this project is not only its comprehensiveness but also that we are archiving a unique DNA identifier for each species (the barcode).
This is really useful for instance to figure out what a fish eats. By sequencing the DNA found in its gut, and by matching it against the database of known DNA sequences, it becomes possible to determine what is its favorite food.
Another application is for identifying larvae. For many marine animals, life starts as a larva which might look totally different from the adult. However, both the larva and the adult share the same DNA so if we know the DNA of the adult, we can figure out how the larva looks like. Compare the larva and the adult for this species of crab (Xanthias lamarcki). Hsiu, a post-doc in our lab, works on this project.