The future of taxonomy

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Microbial systematics has always been a misunderstood scientific discipline. It is readily assumed that systematists use antiquated techniques to examine the molecular, morphological, physiological, and biochemical properties of microorganisms. It is also believed that the circumscription of novel taxa is not essential let alone a requirement and it is due to this that systematics has become a dying art. It is rarely appreciated that systematics is a discipline that is essential to all sciences and that without the use of current techniques, descriptions of novel species or higher taxa cannot be correctly published. Since Woese and colleagues first publicized the use of the small subunit ribosomal RNA as a molecular tool, phylogenetic analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences has become an essential step in the polyphasic approach of microbial systematics. However, this molecular technique has limitations which have become apparent, and therefore it is evident that full genome comparisons are soon going to be a requirement for the full circumscription of novel taxa. The next generation of sequencing technology has enabled more information to be incorporated into the full systematic picture and that is immense as it is only the start of the genomic era. It is hoped that high-throughput sequencing will compliment polyphasic data rather than throwing a different light on it and thus soon become an essential minimal standard for taxonomic descriptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-35
JournalAdvances in Applied Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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