Why Did DNA Technology Lead to More Use of Cladistics?

DNA fingerprinting provides information that can determine the point when an organism separated from its ancestral species, allowing its classification by cladistics. The quantifiable difference in DNA between two species identifies their evolutionary distance.

Cladistics places organisms in clades – family trees composed of the species in line with its ancestors and descendants. Branches off the direct line become new clades. A cladogram captures this information in a graphical representation of lineages and branching.

The speed at which DNA sequencing identifies organisms is overwhelming traditional species-based taxonomy approaches. Cladistics positions organisms on a genomic map but does not account for the evidence of species of new organisms nor for the recording of their genomic profile. Genetic coding provides a method to capture genetic information before proof of species identification is available. This data acts as a biological bar code, identifying the organism genetically regardless of changes to taxonomy systems.

Multiple sources of existing information and the likelihood of new types of information in the future require a system capable of adapting to changing conditions. The new fields of cybertaxonomy and biodiversity informatics are addressing those concerns by building a schema of taxonomy and other resources for online species definitions. Maintaining access to online resources over time is a critical issue.