What is CBOL?

The Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) is an international initiative devoted to developing DNA barcoding as a global standard for the identification of biological species. DNA barcoding is a new technique that uses a short DNA sequence from a standardized and agreed-upon position in the genome as a molecular diagnostic for species-level identification. DNA barcode sequences are very short relative to the entire genome and they can be obtained reasonably quickly and cheaply. The "Folmer region" at the 5' end of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 mitochondrial region (COI) is emerging as the standard barcode region for almost all groups of higher animals. This region is 648 nucleotide base pairs long in most groups and is flanked by regions of conserved sequences, making it relatively easy to isolate and analyze. A growing number of studies have shown that COI sequence variability is very low (generally less than 1-2%) and that the COI sequences of even closely related species differ by several percent, making it possible to identify species with high confidence. For those groups in which COI is unable to resolve species-level differences, CBOL recommends the use of an additional gene region. In some groups, COI is not an effective barcode region and a different standard region must be identified. In all cases, DNA barcoding is based on the use of a short, standard region that enables cost-effective species identification.

To learn more about DNA barcoding, see:

CBOL has more than 170 Member Organizations from more than 50 countries including:

  • Natural history museums, zoos, herbaria, and botanical gardens;
  • University departments of biology and molecular biology;
  • Biodiversity and conservation organizations, NGOs;
  • Governmental and intergovernmental organizations; and
  • Private biotech companies.

CBOL’s mission is to promote the exploration and development of DNA barcoding as a global standard for species identification. In pursuing this mission, CBOL promotes:

  • the rapid compilation of high-quality DNA barcode records in a public library of DNA sequences,
  • the development of new instruments and processes that will make barcoding cheaper, faster, and more portable,
  • the participation of taxonomists and taxonomic research organizations in all regions and countries, and
  • the use of DNA barcoding for the benefit of science and society.