DNA barcoding has enabled researchers to uncover new species that had previously been clumped together with other, similar species, suggesting the Earth has greater biological diversity than thought, the Guardian reports.
For instance, it notes that University of Pennsylvania's Daniel Janzen had long been baffled by the diversity he observed among the two-barred flasher caterpillar Astraptes fulgerator. With the development of DNA barcoding by University of Guelph's Paul Hebert, Janzen found that there were in fact 10 different species among his samples. As the Guardian add, genetically distinct species have likewise since been found among aloe, bats, chameleons, and more, many of which may be endangered.
"DNA barcoding is a tool that allows us to detect differences among species at a finer scale than before, like a microscope allows us to see fine details of surface structure that are invisible to the naked eye," Brian Brown from the LA Natural History Museum tells the Guardian. He adds that the approach "is showing that the world is even more wonderfully biodiverse than we suspected."