DNA fingerprinting in zoology: past, present, future
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In 1962, Thomas Kuhn famously argued that the progress of scientific knowledge results from periodic 'paradigm shifts' during a period of crisis in which new ideas dramatically change the status quo. Although this is generally true, Alec Jeffreys' identification of hypervariable repeat motifs in the human beta-globin gene, and the subsequent development of a technology known now as 'DNA fingerprinting', also resulted in a dramatic shift in the life sciences, particularly in ecology, evolutionary biology, and forensics. The variation Jeffreys recognized has been used to identify individuals from tissue samples of not just humans, but also of many animal species. In addition, the technology has been used to determine the sex of individuals, as well as paternity/maternity and close kinship. We review a broad range of such studies involving a wide diversity of animal species. For individual researchers, Jeffreys' invention resulted in many ecologists and evolutionary biologists being given the opportunity to develop skills in molecular biology to augment their whole organism focus. Few developments in science, even among the subsequent genome discoveries of the 21st century, have the same wide-reaching significance. Even the later development of PCR-based genotyping of individuals using microsatellite repeats sequences, and their use in determining multiple paternity, is conceptually rooted in Alec Jeffreys' pioneering work.
© 2014 Chambers et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Population, Ecological and Evolutionary Genetics