Bacterial Taxonomy

David Lloyd-Jones icomm5 at netcom.ca
Fri Jul 9 09:06:49 EST 1999

Jeffrey Stobernack <h0444pu6 at student.hu-berlin.de> wrote in message
news:3785F3D6.66709647 at student.hu-berlin.de...
> Will it ever be possible to make a good taxonomy of microorganismen? Its
> surely possible do describe major groups of Bacteria, but I think, when
> want to make taxonomy on the level of genus oder species, you would have
> write a new book every month.


First of all gene sequencing is accelerating at a horrendous pace. On the
human genome there have been more base pairs identified in the last six
months than in the five years before that, and the acceleration continues,
both as the machines improve and as the numbers of machines and teams
increase around the world.

When you want to match up a chunk of DNA you feed it to the databases
through software intermediaries called FAST, BLAST, or one of of a few
others, and the software gives you a family of answers.

It seems to me that within the near future we shall identify small beasties
by their entire genomes, and if you want to know about a group of similar
beasties -- what would in an earlier age have been called their "species" --
you will feed the genome to such a software intermediary, and your group of
choice will be whichever dozen, thousand, or million nearest hits the
software gives back to you. You'll then file that on your machine just as
you'd file an Alta-Vista search result today, trade it with colleagues, and
so forth.

Writing the "new book every month" will be slow. A FAST or BLAST search
takes about nine seconds to return 400 or so hits.


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