DNA Surveillance is a service for determining the species identity of unknown specimens and samples using phylogenetic and sequence comparison methods. DNA Surveillance aligns a user-submitted DNA sequence against an alignment of reference DNA sequences and then builds a phylogenetic tree. The user's query sequence is also optionally submitted to a search using the NCBI BLAST service.
Reference database curation
DNA Surveillance comprises several databases, each focussing on a different taxonomic group. Each database is a set of DNA sequence alignments curated by a taxon specialist. These specialists select the gene regions that provide reliable identifications within the taxonomic group of interest. They select sequences from correctly identified specimens in order to develop alignments that reflect the diversity within and between species.
Making an identification
A user makes an identification by considering the evolutionary distances from their query sequence to the reference sequences, the placement of the query sequence on a phylogenetic tree, the bootstrap support for that placement in the tree, and the BLAST results. In the case of BLAST searches, the taxon specialist has no control over the degree to which the taxonomic group is represented in the BLAST databases, and so users must apply the same scrutiny as they otherwise would to the results.
Where can I find my species of interest?
If you would like to use phylogenetic methods to identify specimens in a particular group but you cannot find that group in our list, you might consider undertaking the curation yourself. Or, you could approach experts in the taxonomic group to establish a reference alignment. Please contact us if you are interested in establishing an instance of DNA Surveillance for a taxonomic group not currently represented on our site. You will have full control and responsibility for the curation and annotation of the reference sequence alignments for the taxonomic group.