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Towards DNA chip technology as a standard analytical tool for the identification of marine organisms in biodiversity and ecosystem science

Acronym: FISH & CHIPS
Period: January 2004 till March 2007
Status: Completed

Sustainable development is a fundamental goal of the European Union and loss of biodiversity is emphasised as one of the main threats to it. However, biodiversity and ecosystems of European Seas are under human impact, such as pollution, eutrophication, and overfishing. Therefore it is necessary to monitor changes in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

The aim of the project is the development of DNA chips for the identification of marine organisms in European Seas as a cost effective, reliable and efficient technology in biodiversity and ecosystem science.

Many marine organisms, such as eggs and larvae of fishes, plankton, and benthic invertebrates, are difficult to identify by morphological characters. The classical methods are extremely time consuming and require a high degree of taxonomic expertise. Consequently, the basic step of identifying such organisms is a major bottleneck in biodiversity and ecosystem science.

Therefore, the project seeks to demonstrate that DNA chips can be a new powerful and innovative tool for the identification of marine organisms. Three DNA chips for the identification of fishes, phytoplankton, and invertebrates of European Seas will be developed. These chips will facilitate research on dispersal of ichthyoplankton, monitoring of phytoplankton, and identification of bioindicators as well as prey in gut contents analysis.

To achieve this goal a combined biological and technical approach has been initiated: The biological material will be sampled by marine biologists. The next step is the sequencing of suitable molecular markers for probe design. The technical part consists mainly in constructing gene probe libraries and determining their specificity. This will be done by biotech research centres in connection with SMEs engaged DNA chip technology. Therefore the project has the potential to bring Europe’s marine biotechnology to the forefront of this field.

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