Sunday 7 March 2021

 An agg.ravating issue? 

I have been meaning to get around to throwing this potential "spanner in the works" for a while now.

Below is the link to an article in The Guardian dated Friday 25th December2020 by Patrick Greenfield. Some of you may have read it already:

It discusses the increasing use of DNA barcoding technique for identifying flora and fauna species and presents surprising results with potential far reaching consequences.

Put briefly, this currently laboratory based technique, is discovering many actual genetic divergences in species where it was formerly assumed to be natural variation. Included as an example, is the caterpillar of the Two-barred Flasher butterfly and the wide variation in body stripes this species displays.

It may sound a rather dry and remote science but having read it I can not help but now wonder about the moth species we record and what this discovery may imply for our field recording in the future? 

Will a time come where DNA barcoding is the only acceptable true identification of a species? How will this shape the confidence in current field species identification records/techniques? How important, in terms of identification ethics, is this new technique? Would agg. be the new normal for general field species monitoring without DNA analysis? Could bar coding be a possible field technique for the future (Don't even begin to think about the fund raising for that)?

As usual with scientific discovery, more questions than answers!

It does cause me to wonder if even common moths we identify with "certainty" and do not attach agg. to, may no longer be the case and that they could all be agg. without establishing their individual genetic codes? I hope I am wrong!

No two moths even within current sub-species groups are identical. This could now be due to new sub-species groups, only determinable by DNA bar coding until we have a fully illustrated 5000 page field guide!?

This may all seem a bit sci-fi at the moment but I imagine there must be at least a beginning in discussion about potential effects this new arm of species identification will have on current field recording techniques and results classification?

Mercifully all theoretical for us field recorders at the moment!

Phil McGregor.

Wednesday 3 March 2021

Lockdown Target Species Challenge

Hello Moth-ers - It's been a very chilly start to this challenge therefore things have been very slow in getting going, but well done to Mel Jones, as he was the only moth-er who's informed me they were taking part, who actually manage to record one of the target species.