What is Species Identification
Species Identification is important in law enforcement as law enforcers often come across illegally trafficked wildlilfe or their body parts. The law enforcers need to be able to identify the species in order to determine whether it is a wildlife species subject to legal regulation or not. It also helps the law enforcer know which charges to prefer against an offender. For example, if the law has varied penalties between endangered species and species that are not endangered you must be sure which species you are dealing with in your case so as not to prefer the wrong charges. Further, the law requires that the prosecution proves its case beyond reasonable doubt and it is therefore important to prove that a species is indeed what they claim it to be. There are three main methods of species identification. These are morphology, microscopy and forensic DNA.
Morphology is the identification of species or specimens through its physical properties. Species identification is done through observation and comparison with other known specimens. Morphology is often used to identify species or specimen because Morphological characters are easily observable. Further, mophology is used to analyse physical characters. One does not need sophisticated laboratory equipment. In morphology, there is little time and effort required to identify the specimens. Physical characteristics observed during morphological identification of specimens include shape, size, and colour. One can also look at unique patterns, density and texture.
Microscopy is the use of microscopes to view objects that cannot be seen with the naked eye. The microscope is a very powerful tool for understanding the structure and characteristics of objects that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Sometimes in species identification, the features of a specimen may be hidden from the naked eye. This can be a result of contamination, oxidation or alteration, for example by carving or cutting. Degradation or deterioration can also make it difficult to identify features of a specimen with the naked eye.
Microscopes come in many different types, each of which has distinct functions and applications. There are several advantages of using microscopy for species identification. The first is that microscopes come in a wide range of specifications including those that are portable and easy for non-experts to use. Secndly, microscopes allow one to see features that would have been missed when observing with the naked eye.
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. DNA is sometimes referred to as a genetic blueprint because it contains the instructions that govern the development of an organism. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus where it is called nuclear DNA. An important property of DNA is that it can replicate or make copies of itself. The biological materials used to determine a DNA profile include blood, semen, saliva, urine, faeces, hair, teeth, bone, tissue and cells.
DNA has four major functions. It contains the blueprint for manufacturing proteins and enzymes. Secondly, it plays a role in regulating when the proteins and enzymes are made and when they are not made. It also carries information when cells divide. Further, it transmits information from parental organisms to their offspring. DNA was first introduced as evidence in the United States court system in 1987.