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1.  jMOTU and Taxonerator: Turning DNA Barcode Sequences into Annotated Operational Taxonomic Units 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19259.
DNA barcoding and other DNA sequence-based techniques for investigating and estimating biodiversity require explicit methods for associating individual sequences with taxa, as it is at the taxon level that biodiversity is assessed. For many projects, the bioinformatic analyses required pose problems for laboratories whose prime expertise is not in bioinformatics. User-friendly tools are required for both clustering sequences into molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTU) and for associating these MOTU with known organismal taxonomies.
Here we present jMOTU, a Java program for the analysis of DNA barcode datasets that uses an explicit, determinate algorithm to define MOTU. We demonstrate its usefulness for both individual specimen-based Sanger sequencing surveys and bulk-environment metagenetic surveys using long-read next-generation sequencing data. jMOTU is driven through a graphical user interface, and can analyse tens of thousands of sequences in a short time on a desktop computer. A companion program, Taxonerator, that adds traditional taxonomic annotation to MOTU, is also presented. Clustering and taxonomic annotation data are stored in a relational database, and are thus amenable to subsequent data mining and web presentation.
jMOTU efficiently and robustly identifies the molecular taxa present in survey datasets, and Taxonerator decorates the MOTU with putative identifications. jMOTU and Taxonerator are freely available from
PMCID: PMC3081837  PMID: 21541350
2.  Reverse Taxonomy for Elucidating Diversity of Insect-Associated Nematodes: A Case Study with Termites 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43865.
The molecular operational taxonomic unit (MOTU) has recently been applied to microbial and microscopic animal biodiversity surveys. However, in many cases, some of the MOTUs cannot be definitively tied to any of the taxonomic groups in current databases. To surmount these limitations, the concept of “reverse taxonomy” has been proposed, i.e. to primarily list the MOTUs with morphological information, and then identify and/or describe them at genus/species level using subsamples or by re-isolating the target organisms. Nevertheless, the application of “reverse taxonomy” has not been sufficiently evaluated. Therefore, the practical applicability of “reverse taxonomy” is tested using termite-associated nematodes as a model system for phoretic/parasitic organisms which have high habitat specificity and a potential handle (their termite host species) for re-isolation attempts.
Forty-eight species (from 298 colonies) of termites collected from the American tropics and subtropics were examined for their nematode associates using the reverse taxonomy method and culturing attempts (morphological identification and further sequencing efforts). The survey yielded 51 sequence types ( =  MOTUs) belonging to 19 tentatively identified genera. Within these, four were identified based on molecular data with preliminary morphological observation, and an additional seven were identified or characterized from successful culturing, leaving eight genera unidentified.
That 1/3 of the genera were not successfully identified suggests deficiencies in the depth of available sequences in the database and biological characters, i.e. usually isolated as phoretic/parasitic stages which are not available for morphological identification, and too many undiscovered lineages of nematodes. Although there still is the issue of culturability of nematodes, culturing attempts could help to make reverse taxonomy methods more effective. However, expansion of the database, i.e., production of more DNA barcodes tied to biological information by finding and characterizing additional new and known lineages, is necessary for analyzing functional diversity.
PMCID: PMC3429485  PMID: 22952792
3.  The diversity and biogeography of the Coleoptera of Churchill: insights from DNA barcoding 
BMC Ecology  2013;13:40.
Coleoptera is the most diverse order of insects (>300,000 described species), but its richness diminishes at increasing latitudes (e.g., ca. 7400 species recorded in Canada), particularly of phytophagous and detritivorous species. However, incomplete sampling of northern habitats and a lack of taxonomic study of some families limits our understanding of biodiversity patterns in the Coleoptera. We conducted an intensive biodiversity survey from 2006–2010 at Churchill, Manitoba, Canada in order to quantify beetle species diversity in this model region, and to prepare a barcode library of beetles for sub-arctic biodiversity and ecological research. We employed DNA barcoding to provide estimates of provisional species diversity, including for families currently lacking taxonomic expertise, and to examine the guild structure, habitat distribution, and biogeography of beetles in the Churchill region.
We obtained DNA barcodes from 3203 specimens representing 302 species or provisional species (the latter quantitatively defined on the basis of Molecular Operational Taxonomic Units, MOTUs) in 31 families of Coleoptera. Of the 184 taxa identified to the level of a Linnaean species name, 170 (92.4%) corresponded to a single MOTU, four (2.2%) represented closely related sibling species pairs within a single MOTU, and ten (5.4%) were divided into two or more MOTUs suggestive of cryptic species. The most diverse families were the Dytiscidae (63 spp.), Staphylinidae (54 spp.), and Carabidae (52 spp.), although the accumulation curve for Staphylinidae suggests that considerable additional diversity remains to be sampled in this family. Most of the species present are predatory, with phytophagous, mycophagous, and saprophagous guilds being represented by fewer species. Most named species of Carabidae and Dytiscidae showed a significant bias toward open habitats (wet or dry). Forest habitats, particularly dry boreal forest, although limited in extent in the region, were undersampled.
We present an updated species list for this region as well as a species-level DNA barcode reference library. This resource will facilitate future work, such as biomonitoring and the study of the ecology and distribution of larvae.
PMCID: PMC3819705  PMID: 24164967
Barcode library; Barcoding biotas; Boreal-arctic transition; COI; Cytochrome c oxidase subunit I; DNA barcoding; Freshwater; Terrestrial; Subarctic forest
4.  DNA taxonomy of a neglected animal phylum: an unexpected diversity of tardigrades. 
A molecular survey technique was used to investigate the diversity of terrestrial tardigrades from three sites within Scotland. Ribosomal small subunit sequence was used to classify specimens into molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTU). Most MOTU were identified to the generic level using digital voucher photography. Thirty-two MOTU were defined, a surprising abundance given that the documented British fauna is 68 species. Some tardigrade MOTU were shared between the two rural collection sites, but no MOTU were found in both urban and rural sites, which conflicts with models of ubiquity of meiofaunal taxa. The patterns of relatedness of MOTU were particularly intriguing, with some forming clades with low levels of divergence, suggestive of taxon flocks. Some morphological taxa contained well-separated MOTU, perhaps indicating the existence of cryptic taxa. DNA sequence-based MOTU proved to be a revealing method for meiofaunal diversity studies.
PMCID: PMC1810026  PMID: 15252980
5.  Testing a Short Nuclear Marker for Inferring Staphylinid Beetle Diversity in an African Tropical Rain Forest 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e18101.
The use of DNA based methods for assessing biodiversity has become increasingly common during the last years. Especially in speciose biomes as tropical rain forests and/or in hyperdiverse or understudied taxa they may efficiently complement morphological approaches. The most successful molecular approach in this field is DNA barcoding based on cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) marker, but other markers are used as well. Whereas most studies aim at identifying or describing species, there are only few attempts to use DNA markers for inventorying all animal species found in environmental samples to describe variations of biodiversity patterns.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In this study, an analysis of the nuclear D3 region of the 28S rRNA gene to delimit species-like units is compared to results based on distinction of morphospecies. Data derived from both approaches are used to assess diversity and composition of staphylinid beetle communities of a Guineo-Congolian rain forest in Kenya. Beetles were collected with a standardized sampling design across six transects in primary and secondary forests using pitfall traps. Sequences could be obtained of 99% of all individuals. In total, 76 molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTUs) were found in contrast to 70 discernible morphospecies. Despite this difference both approaches revealed highly similar biodiversity patterns, with species richness being equal in primary and secondary forests, but with divergent species communities in different habitats. The D3-MOTU approach proved to be an efficient tool for biodiversity analyses.
Our data illustrate that the use of MOTUs as a proxy for species can provide an alternative to morphospecies identification for the analysis of changes in community structure of hyperdiverse insect taxa. The efficient amplification of the D3-marker and the ability of the D3-MOTUs to reveal similar biodiversity patterns as analyses of morphospecies recommend its use in future molecular studies on biodiversity.
PMCID: PMC3069053  PMID: 21483872
6.  DNA Barcodes for Species Identification in the Hyperdiverse Ant Genus Pheidole (Formicidae: Myrmicinae) 
DNA sequencing is increasingly being used to assist in species identification in order to overcome taxonomic impediment. However, few studies attempt to compare the results of these molecular studies with a more traditional species delineation approach based on morphological characters. Mitochondrial DNA Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (CO1) gene was sequenced, measuring 636 base pairs, from 47 ants of the genus Pheidole (Formicidae: Myrmicinae) collected in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest to test whether the morphology-based assignment of individuals into species is supported by DNA-based species delimitation. Twenty morphospecies were identified, whereas the barcoding analysis identified 19 Molecular Operational Taxonomic Units (MOTUs). Fifteen out of the 19 DNA-based clusters allocated, using sequence divergence thresholds of 2% and 3%, matched with morphospecies. Both thresholds yielded the same number of MOTUs. Only one MOTU was successfully identified to species level using the CO1 sequences of Pheidole species already in the Genbank. The average pairwise sequence divergence for all 47 sequences was 19%, ranging between 0–25%. In some cases, however, morphology and molecular based methods differed in their assignment of individuals to morphospecies or MOTUs. The occurrence of distinct mitochondrial lineages within morphological species highlights groups for further detailed genetic and morphological studies, and therefore a pluralistic approach using several methods to understand the taxonomy of difficult lineages is advocated.
PMCID: PMC3735075  PMID: 23902257
CO1, DNA-barcoding; morphospecies; MOTU; taxonomy
7.  Integrated Operational Taxonomic Units (IOTUs) in Echolocating Bats: A Bridge between Molecular and Traditional Taxonomy 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e40122.
Nowadays, molecular techniques are widespread tools for the identification of biological entities. However, until very few years ago, their application to taxonomy provoked intense debates between traditional and molecular taxonomists. To prevent every kind of disagreement, it is essential to standardize taxonomic definitions. Along these lines, we introduced the concept of Integrated Operational Taxonomic Unit (IOTU). IOTUs come from the concept of Operational Taxonomic Unit (OTU) and paralleled the Molecular Operational Taxonomic Unit (MOTU). The latter is largely used as a standard in many molecular-based works (even if not always explicitly formalized). However, while MOTUs are assigned solely on molecular variation criteria, IOTUs are identified from patterns of molecular variation that are supported by at least one more taxonomic characteristic.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We tested the use of IOTUs on the widest DNA barcoding dataset of Italian echolocating bats species ever assembled (i.e. 31 species, 209 samples). We identified 31 molecular entities, 26 of which corresponded to the morphologically assigned species, two MOTUs and three IOTUs. Interestingly, we found three IOTUs in Myotis nattereri, one of which is a newly described lineage found only in central and southern Italy. In addition, we found a level of molecular variability within four vespertilionid species deserving further analyses. According to our scheme two of them (i.e. M. bechsteinii and Plecotus auritus) should be ranked as unconfirmed candidate species (UCS).
From a systematic point of view, IOTUs are more informative than the general concept of OTUs and the more recent MOTUs. According to information content, IOTUs are closer to species, although it is important to underline that IOTUs are not species. Overall, the use of a more precise panel of taxonomic entities increases the clarity in the systematic field and has the potential to fill the gaps between modern and traditional taxonomy.
PMCID: PMC3386196  PMID: 22761951
8.  DNA barcoding reveals diversity of Hymenoptera and the dominance of parasitoids in a sub-arctic environment 
BMC Ecology  2013;13:2.
Insect diversity typically declines with increasing latitude, but previous studies have shown conflicting latitude-richness gradients for some hymenopteran parasitoids. However, historical estimates of insect diversity and species richness can be difficult to confirm or compare, because they may be based upon dissimilar methods. As a proxy for species identification, we used DNA barcoding to identify molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTUs) for 7870 Hymenoptera specimens collected near Churchill, Manitoba, from 2004 through 2010.
We resolved 1630 MOTUs for this collection, of which 75% (1228) were ichneumonoids (Ichneumonidae + Braconidae) and 91% (1484) were parasitoids. We estimate the total number of Hymenoptera MOTUs in this region at 2624-2840.
The diversity of parasitoids in this sub-Arctic environment implies a high diversity of potential host species throughout the same range. We discuss these results in the contexts of resolving interspecific interactions that may include cryptic species, and developing reproducible methods to estimate and compare species richness across sites and between surveys, especially when morphological specialists are not available to identify every specimen.
PMCID: PMC3565895  PMID: 23351160
Barcoding biotas; Biodiversity; DNA barcoding; Hymenoptera; Sub-Arctic; Parasitoids; Canada
9.  A DNA-Based Registry for All Animal Species: The Barcode Index Number (BIN) System 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e66213.
Because many animal species are undescribed, and because the identification of known species is often difficult, interim taxonomic nomenclature has often been used in biodiversity analysis. By assigning individuals to presumptive species, called operational taxonomic units (OTUs), these systems speed investigations into the patterning of biodiversity and enable studies that would otherwise be impossible. Although OTUs have conventionally been separated through their morphological divergence, DNA-based delineations are not only feasible, but have important advantages. OTU designation can be automated, data can be readily archived, and results can be easily compared among investigations. This study exploits these attributes to develop a persistent, species-level taxonomic registry for the animal kingdom based on the analysis of patterns of nucleotide variation in the barcode region of the cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) gene. It begins by examining the correspondence between groups of specimens identified to a species through prior taxonomic work and those inferred from the analysis of COI sequence variation using one new (RESL) and four established (ABGD, CROP, GMYC, jMOTU) algorithms. It subsequently describes the implementation, and structural attributes of the Barcode Index Number (BIN) system. Aside from a pragmatic role in biodiversity assessments, BINs will aid revisionary taxonomy by flagging possible cases of synonymy, and by collating geographical information, descriptive metadata, and images for specimens that are likely to belong to the same species, even if it is undescribed. More than 274,000 BIN web pages are now available, creating a biodiversity resource that is positioned for rapid growth.
PMCID: PMC3704603  PMID: 23861743
10.  Revisiting species delimitation within the genus Oxystele using DNA barcoding approach 
ZooKeys  2013;337-354.
The genus Oxystele, a member of the highly diverse marine gastropod superfamily Trochoidea, is endemic to southern Africa. Members of the genus include some of the most abundant molluscs on southern African shores and are important components of littoral biodiversity in rocky intertidal habitats. Species delimitation within the genus is still controversial, especially regarding the complex O. impervia / O. variegata. Here, we assessed species boundaries within the genus using DNA barcoding and phylogenetic tree reconstruction. We analysed 56 specimens using the mitochondrial gene COI. Our analysis delimits five molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTUs), and distinguishes O. impervia from O. variegata. However, we reveal important discrepancies between MOTUs and morphology-based species identification and discuss alternative hypotheses that can account for this. Finally, we indicate the need for future study that includes additional genes, and the combination of both morphology and genetic techniques (e.g. AFLP or microsatellites) to get deeper insight into species delimitation within the genus.
PMCID: PMC3890686  PMID: 24453566
Mollusca; Gastropoda; Trochidae; species delimitation; morphology
11.  Barcoding a Quantified Food Web: Crypsis, Concepts, Ecology and Hypotheses 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e14424.
The efficient and effective monitoring of individuals and populations is critically dependent on correct species identification. While this point may seem obvious, identifying the majority of the more than 100 natural enemies involved in the spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana – SBW) food web remains a non-trivial endeavor. Insect parasitoids play a major role in the processes governing the population dynamics of SBW throughout eastern North America. However, these species are at the leading edge of the taxonomic impediment and integrating standardized identification capacity into existing field programs would provide clear benefits. We asked to what extent DNA barcoding the SBW food web would alter our understanding of the diversity and connectence of the food web and the frequency of generalists vs. specialists in different forest habitats. We DNA barcoded over 10% of the insects collected from the SBW food web in three New Brunswick forest plots from 1983 to 1993. For 30% of these specimens, we amplified at least one additional nuclear region. When the nodes of the food web were estimated based on barcode divergences (using molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTU) or phylogenetic diversity (PD) – the food web became much more diverse and connectence was reduced. We tested one measure of food web structure (the “bird feeder effect”) and found no difference compared to the morphologically based predictions. Many, but not all, of the presumably polyphagous parasitoids now appear to be morphologically-cryptic host-specialists. To our knowledge, this project is the first to barcode a food web in which interactions have already been well-documented and described in space, time and abundance. It is poised to be a system in which field-based methods permit the identification capacity required by forestry scientists. Food web barcoding provided an effective tool for the accurate identification of all species involved in the cascading effects of future budworm outbreaks. Integrating standardized barcodes within food webs may ultimately change the face of community ecology. This will be most poignantly felt in food webs that have not yet been quantified. Here, more accurate and precise connections will be within the grasp of any researcher for the first time.
PMCID: PMC3130735  PMID: 21754977
12.  DNA barcoding for effective biodiversity assessment of a hyperdiverse arthropod group: the ants of Madagascar 
The role of DNA barcoding as a tool to accelerate the inventory and analysis of diversity for hyperdiverse arthropods is tested using ants in Madagascar. We demonstrate how DNA barcoding helps address the failure of current inventory methods to rapidly respond to pressing biodiversity needs, specifically in the assessment of richness and turnover across landscapes with hyperdiverse taxa. In a comparison of inventories at four localities in northern Madagascar, patterns of richness were not significantly different when richness was determined using morphological taxonomy (morphospecies) or sequence divergence thresholds (Molecular Operational Taxonomic Unit(s); MOTU). However, sequence-based methods tended to yield greater richness and significantly lower indices of similarity than morphological taxonomy. MOTU determined using our molecular technique were a remarkably local phenomenon—indicative of highly restricted dispersal and/or long-term isolation. In cases where molecular and morphological methods differed in their assignment of individuals to categories, the morphological estimate was always more conservative than the molecular estimate. In those cases where morphospecies descriptions collapsed distinct molecular groups, sequence divergences of 16% (on average) were contained within the same morphospecies. Such high divergences highlight taxa for further detailed genetic, morphological, life history, and behavioral studies.
PMCID: PMC1609228  PMID: 16214741
cox1; CO1; Madagascar; collaborative taxonomy; DNA barcode; biodiversity
13.  Criconematinae Habitats and Lobocriconema thornei n. sp. (Criconematidae: Nematoda) 
Journal of Nematology  1978;10(1):61-70.
A 16.4-ha arca at the Michigan State University Water Quality Research Site was surveyed to obtain information on the habitats and prominence of taxa of the Criconematinae. Fifteen species representing six genera (Macroposthonia, Lobocriconema, Criconema, Crossonema, Nothocriconema, and Xenocriconemella) of this subfamily were recovered from the experimental site. Species occurrence and population densities were evaluated by using prominence and importance values. The Criconematinae was one of the most prominent and important nematode subfamilies recovered from this area. The species successfully inhabited a broad range of woodlot and field vegetations, and soil management groups. Taxa of the Criconematinae were generally more prominent in woodlot than in field vegetations, although with several important exceptions, especially within the genus Macroposthonia. The second-most prominent and important species recovered was an tandescribed species of Lobocriconerna. It is described as Lobocriconema thornei n. sp., including scanning electron micrographs of females, and descriptions of several of the juvenile stages.
PMCID: PMC2617857  PMID: 19305815
Ecology; Macroposthonia; Lobocriconema; Criconema; Crossonema; Nothocriconema; Xenocriconemella
14.  Integrated taxonomy: traditional approach and DNA barcoding for the identification of filarioid worms and related parasites (Nematoda) 
We compared here the suitability and efficacy of traditional morphological approach and DNA barcoding to distinguish filarioid nematodes species (Nematoda, Spirurida). A reliable and rapid taxonomic identification of these parasites is the basis for a correct diagnosis of important and widespread parasitic diseases. The performance of DNA barcoding with different parameters was compared measuring the strength of correlation between morphological and molecular identification approaches. Molecular distance estimation was performed with two different mitochondrial markers (coxI and 12S rDNA) and different combinations of data handling were compared in order to provide a stronger tool for easy identification of filarioid worms.
DNA barcoding and morphology based identification of filarioid nematodes revealed high coherence. Despite both coxI and 12S rDNA allow to reach high-quality performances, only coxI revealed to be manageable. Both alignment algorithm, gaps treatment, and the criteria used to define the threshold value were found to affect the performance of DNA barcoding with 12S rDNA marker. Using coxI and a defined level of nucleotide divergence to delimit species boundaries, DNA barcoding can also be used to infer potential new species.
An integrated approach allows to reach a higher discrimination power. The results clearly show where DNA-based and morphological identifications are consistent, and where they are not. The coherence between DNA-based and morphological identification for almost all the species examined in our work is very strong. We propose DNA barcoding as a reliable, consistent, and democratic tool for species discrimination in routine identification of parasitic nematodes.
PMCID: PMC2657783  PMID: 19128479
15.  Comparison of Biological, Molecular, and Morphological Methods of Species Identification in a Set of Cultured Panagrolaimus Isolates 
Journal of Nematology  2003;35(1):119-128.
We have developed a molecular barcode system that uses the small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU) sequence to define molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTU) of soil nematodes. Here we attempt to differentiate five cultured isolates of a taxonomically difficult genus, Panagrolaimus, using morphological, molecular, and biological (breeding) criteria. The results indicated that the five culture populations belonged to two reproductively isolated species. The available morphological criteria, including scanning electron microscopy (SEM), were insufficient to differentiate among them, and all five could be classified as one morphospecies. Within-culture variation of the morphometrical data did not discern between the two biological species. Sequence data clearly separated the populations into two groups that supported the breeding results. Given this study represented only five populations of one genus, we suggest a congruence of MOTU analysis with the biological species concept. This multifaceted approach is promising for future identification of nematodes as it is simple, comparable, and transferable.
PMCID: PMC2620612  PMID: 19265985
biological species concept; breeding; culture isolate; method; molecular barcode; morphology; morphospecies; nematode; Panagrolaimus; rRNA; scanning electron microscopy; taxonomy
16.  DNA barcodes and phylogenetic affinities of the terrestrial slugs Arion gilvus and A. ponsi (Gastropoda, Pulmonata, Arionidae) 
ZooKeys  2013;83-104.
The Iberian Peninsula is a region with a high endemicity of species of the terrestrial slug subgenus Mesarion. Many of these species have been described mainly on subtle differences in their proximal genitalia. It therefore remains to be investigated 1) whether these locally diverged taxa also represent different species under a phylogenetic species concept as has been shown for other Mesarion species outside the Iberian Peninsula, and 2) how these taxa are phylogenetically related. Here, we analysed DNA sequence data of two mitochondrial (COI and 16S) genes, and of the nuclear ITS1 region, to explore the phylogenetic affinities of two of these endemic taxa, viz. Arion gilvus Torres Mínguez, 1925 and A. ponsi Quintana Cardona, 2007. We also evaluated the use of these DNA sequence data as DNA barcodes for both species. Our results showed that ITS did not allow to differentiate among most of the Mesarion molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTUs) / morphospecies in Mesarion. Yet, the overall mean p-distance among the Mesarion MOTUs / morphospecies for both mtDNA fragments (16.7% for COI, 13% for 16S) was comparable to that between A. ponsi and its closest relative A. molinae (COI: 14.2%; 16S: 16.2%) and to that between A. gilvus and its closest relative A. urbiae (COI: 14.4%; 16S: 13.4%). Hence, with respect to mtDNA divergence, both A. ponsi and A. gilvus, behave as other Mesarion species or putative species-level MOTUs and thus are confirmed as distinct ‘species’.
PMCID: PMC3890673  PMID: 24453553
DNA barcoding; terrestrial slugs; Gastropoda; taxonomy; Iberian Peninsula; Arion ponsi; Arion gilvus
17.  An integrated approach to fast and informative morphological vouchering of nematodes for applications in molecular barcoding 
Molecular surveys of meiofaunal diversity face some interesting methodological challenges when it comes to interstitial nematodes from soils and sediments. Morphology-based surveys are greatly limited in processing speed, while barcoding approaches for nematodes are hampered by difficulties of matching sequence data with traditional taxonomy. Intermediate technology is needed to bridge the gap between both approaches. An example of such technology is video capture and editing microscopy, which consists of the recording of taxonomically informative multifocal series of microscopy images as digital video clips. The integration of multifocal imaging with sequence analysis of the D2D3 region of large subunit (LSU) rDNA is illustrated here in the context of a combined morphological and barcode sequencing survey of marine nematodes from Baja California and California. The resulting video clips and sequence data are made available online in the database NemATOL ( Analyses of 37 barcoded nematodes suggest that these represent at least 32 species, none of which matches available D2D3 sequences in public databases. The recorded multifocal vouchers allowed us to identify most specimens to genus, and will be used to match specimens with subsequent species identifications and descriptions of preserved specimens. Like molecular barcodes, multifocal voucher archives are part of a wider effort at structuring and changing the process of biodiversity discovery. We argue that data-rich surveys and phylogenetic tools for analysis of barcode sequences are an essential component of the exploration of phyla with a high fraction of undiscovered species. Our methods are also directly applicable to other meiofauna such as for example gastrotrichs and tardigrades.
PMCID: PMC1609217  PMID: 16214752
identification; taxonomy; Nematoda; meiofauna; Gulf of California
18.  Identifying species of moths (Lepidoptera) from Baihua Mountain, Beijing, China, using DNA barcodes 
Ecology and Evolution  2014;4(12):2472-2487.
DNA barcoding has become a promising means for the identification of organisms of all life-history stages. Currently, distance-based and tree-based methods are most widely used to define species boundaries and uncover cryptic species. However, there is no universal threshold of genetic distance values that can be used to distinguish taxonomic groups. Alternatively, DNA barcoding can deploy a “character-based” method, whereby species are identified through the discrete nucleotide substitutions. Our research focuses on the delimitation of moth species using DNA-barcoding methods. We analyzed 393 Lepidopteran specimens belonging to 80 morphologically recognized species with a standard cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) sequencing approach, and deployed tree-based, distance-based, and diagnostic character-based methods to identify the taxa. The tree-based method divided the 393 specimens into 79 taxa (species), and the distance-based method divided them into 84 taxa (species). Although the diagnostic character-based method found only 39 so-identifiable species in the 80 species, with a reduction in sample size the accuracy rate substantially improved. For example, in the Arctiidae subset, all 12 species had diagnostics characteristics. Compared with traditional morphological method, molecular taxonomy performed well. All three methods enable the rapid delimitation of species, although they have different characteristics and different strengths. The tree-based and distance-based methods can be used for accurate species identification and biodiversity studies in large data sets, while the character-based method performs well in small data sets and can also be used as the foundation of species-specific biochips.
PMCID: PMC4203292  PMID: 25360280
Bayesian; cytochrome c oxidase subunit I; diagnostic character; DNA barcode; genetic distance; Lepidoptera; maximum likelihood; moths; neighbor joining
19.  Wedding biodiversity inventory of a large and complex Lepidoptera fauna with DNA barcoding 
By facilitating bioliteracy, DNA barcoding has the potential to improve the way the world relates to wild biodiversity. Here we describe the early stages of the use of cox1 barcoding to supplement and strengthen the taxonomic platform underpinning the inventory of thousands of sympatric species of caterpillars in tropical dry forest, cloud forest and rain forest in northwestern Costa Rica. The results show that barcoding a biologically complex biota unambiguously distinguishes among 97% of more than 1000 species of reared Lepidoptera. Those few species whose barcodes overlap are closely related and not confused with other species. Barcoding also has revealed a substantial number of cryptic species among morphologically defined species, associated sexes, and reinforced identification of species that are difficult to distinguish morphologically. For barcoding to achieve its full potential, (i) ability to rapidly and cheaply barcode older museum specimens is urgent, (ii) museums need to address the opportunity and responsibility for housing large numbers of barcode voucher specimens, (iii) substantial resources need be mustered to support the taxonomic side of the partnership with barcoding, and (iv) hand-held field-friendly barcorder must emerge as a mutualism with the taxasphere and the barcoding initiative, in a manner such that its use generates a resource base for the taxonomic process as well as a tool for the user.
PMCID: PMC1609230  PMID: 16214742
Costa Rica; tropical; Area de Conservación Guanacaste; Hesperiidae; Saturniidae; Sphingidae
20.  DNA Barcoding of Marine Copepods: Assessment of Analytical Approaches to Species Identification 
PLoS Currents  2014;6:ecurrents.tol.cdf8b74881f87e3b01d56b43791626d2.
More than 2,500 species of copepods (Class Maxillopoda; Subclass Copepoda) occur in the marine planktonic environment. The exceptional morphological conservation of the group, with numerous sibling species groups, makes the identification of species challenging, even for expert taxonomists. Molecular approaches to species identification have allowed rapid detection, discrimination, and identification of species based on DNA sequencing of single specimens and environmental samples. Despite the recent development of diverse genetic and genomic markers, the barcode region of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene remains a useful and – in some cases – unequaled diagnostic character for species-level identification of copepods. This study reports 800 new barcode sequences for 63 copepod species not included in any previous study and examines the reliability and resolution of diverse statistical approaches to species identification based upon a dataset of 1,381 barcode sequences for 195 copepod species. We explore the impact of missing data (i.e., species not represented in the barcode database) on the accuracy and reliability of species identifications. Among the tested approaches, the best close match analysis resulted in accurate identification of all individuals to species, with no errors (false positives), and out-performed automated tree-based or BLAST based analyses. This comparative analysis yields new understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of DNA barcoding and confirms the value of DNA barcodes for species identification of copepods, including both individual specimens and bulk samples. Continued integrative morphological-molecular taxonomic analysis is needed to produce a taxonomically-comprehensive database of barcode sequences for all species of marine copepods.
PMCID: PMC4073882  PMID: 24987576
21.  A Ranking System for Reference Libraries of DNA Barcodes: Application to Marine Fish Species from Portugal 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35858.
The increasing availability of reference libraries of DNA barcodes (RLDB) offers the opportunity to the screen the level of consistency in DNA barcode data among libraries, in order to detect possible disagreements generated from taxonomic uncertainty or operational shortcomings. We propose a ranking system to attribute a confidence level to species identifications associated with DNA barcode records from a RLDB. Here we apply the proposed ranking system to a newly generated RLDB for marine fish of Portugal.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Specimens (n = 659) representing 102 marine fish species were collected along the continental shelf of Portugal, morphologically identified and archived in a museum collection. Samples were sequenced at the barcode region of the cytochrome oxidase subunit I gene (COI-5P). Resultant DNA barcodes had average intra-specific and inter-specific Kimura-2-parameter distances (0.32% and 8.84%, respectively) within the range usually observed for marine fishes. All specimens were ranked in five different levels (A–E), according to the reliability of the match between their species identification and the respective diagnostic DNA barcodes. Grades A to E were attributed upon submission of individual specimen sequences to BOLD-IDS and inspection of the clustering pattern in the NJ tree generated. Overall, our study resulted in 73.5% of unambiguous species IDs (grade A), 7.8% taxonomically congruent barcode clusters within our dataset, but awaiting external confirmation (grade B), and 18.7% of species identifications with lower levels of reliability (grades C/E).
We highlight the importance of implementing a system to rank barcode records in RLDB, in order to flag taxa in need of taxonomic revision, or reduce ambiguities of discordant data. With increasing DNA barcode records publicly available, this cross-validation system would provide a metric of relative accuracy of barcodes, while enabling the continuous revision and annotation required in taxonomic work.
PMCID: PMC3338485  PMID: 22558244
22.  The promise of a DNA taxonomy. 
Not only is the number of described species a very small proportion of the estimated extant number of taxa, but it also appears that all concepts of the extent and boundaries of 'species' fail in many cases. Using conserved molecular sequences it is possible to define and diagnose molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTU) that have a similar extent to traditional 'species'. Use of a MOTU system not only allows the rapid and effective identification of most taxa, including those not encountered before, but also allows investigation of the evolution of patterns of diversity. A MOTU approach is not without problems, particularly in the area of deciding what level of molecular difference defines a biologically relevant taxon, but has many benefits. Molecular data are extremely well suited to re-analysis and meta-analysis, and data from multiple independent studies can be readily collated and investigated by using new parameters and assumptions. Previous molecular taxonomic efforts have focused narrowly. Advances in high-throughput sequencing methodologies, however, place the idea of a universal, multi-locus molecular barcoding system in the realm of the possible.
PMCID: PMC1693355  PMID: 15253352
23.  Barcoding Sponges: An Overview Based on Comprehensive Sampling 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39345.
Phylum Porifera includes ∼8,500 valid species distributed world-wide in aquatic ecosystems ranging from ephemeral fresh-water bodies to coastal environments and the deep-sea. The taxonomy and systematics of sponges is complicated, and morphological identification can be both time consuming and erroneous due to phenotypic convergence and secondary losses, etc. DNA barcoding can provide sponge biologists with a simple and rapid method for the identification of samples of unknown taxonomic membership. The Sponge Barcoding Project (, the first initiative to barcode a non-bilaterian metazoan phylum, aims to provide a comprehensive DNA barcode database for Phylum Porifera.
Methodology/Principal Findings
∼7,400 sponge specimens have been extracted, and amplification of the standard COI barcoding fragment has been attempted for approximately 3,300 museum samples with ∼25% mean amplification success. Based on this comprehensive sampling, we present the first report on the workflow and progress of the sponge barcoding project, and discuss some common pitfalls inherent to the barcoding of sponges.
A DNA-barcoding workflow capable of processing potentially large sponge collections has been developed and is routinely used for the Sponge Barcoding Project with success. Sponge specific problems such as the frequent co-amplification of non-target organisms have been detected and potential solutions are currently under development. The initial success of this innovative project have already demonstrated considerable refinement of sponge systematics, evaluating morphometric character importance, geographic phenotypic variability, and the utility of the standard barcoding fragment for Porifera (despite its conserved evolution within this basal metazoan phylum).
PMCID: PMC3389008  PMID: 22802937
24.  How DNA Barcodes Complement Taxonomy and Explore Species Diversity: The Case Study of a Poorly Understood Marine Fauna 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21326.
The species boundaries of some venerids are difficult to define based solely on morphological features due to their indistinct intra- and interspecific phenotypic variability. An unprecedented biodiversity crisis caused by human activities has emerged. Thus, to access the biological diversity and further the conservation of this taxonomically muddling bivalve group, a fast and simple approach that can efficiently examine species boundaries and highlight areas of unrecognized diversity is urgently needed. DNA barcoding has proved its effectiveness in high-volume species identification and discovery. In the present study, Chinese fauna was chosen to examine whether this molecular biomarker is sensitive enough for species delimitation, and how it complements taxonomy and explores species diversity.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A total of 315 specimens from around 60 venerid species were included, qualifying the present study as the first major analysis of DNA barcoding for marine bivalves. Nearly all individuals identified to species level based on morphological traits possessed distinct barcode clusters, except for the specimens of one species pair. Among the 26 individuals that were not assigned binomial names a priori, twelve respectively nested within a species genealogy. The remaining individuals formed five monophyletic clusters that potentially represent species new to science or at least unreported in China. Five putative hidden species were also uncovered in traditional morphospecies.
The present study shows that DNA barcoding is effective in species delimitation and can aid taxonomists by indicating useful diagnostic morphological traits, informing needful revision, and flagging unseen species. Moreover, the BOLD system, which deposits barcodes, morphological, geographical and other data, has the potential as a convenient taxonomic platform.
PMCID: PMC3116896  PMID: 21698181
25.  Assessing biodiversity of a freshwater benthic macroinvertebrate community through non-destructive environmental barcoding of DNA from preservative ethanol 
BMC Ecology  2012;12:28.
Characterizing biodiversity in a habitat or in targeted taxonomically or socioeconomically important groups remains a challenge. Standard DNA-based biodiversity identification tools such as DNA barcoding coupled with high-throughput Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies are rapidly changing the landscape of biodiversity analysis by targeting various habitats and a wide array of organisms. However, effective use of these technological advances requires optimized protocols and benchmarking against traditional tools. Here we investigate the use of commonly used preservative ethanol as a non-destructive and inexpensive source of DNA for NGS biodiversity analysis of benthic macroinvertebrates. We used the preservative ethanol added to field collected organisms (live sorted bulk benthic samples) as a source of community DNA for NGS environmental barcoding. We directly compare this approach with a DNA barcode library generated using Sanger sequencing of all individuals separated from abenthic sample as well as with NGS environmental barcoding of DNA extracted from mixed/homogenized tissue specimens of the same benthic sample. We also evaluate a multiplex PCR strategy, as compared to commonly used single amplicon workflow, using three newly designed primer sets targeting a wide array of benthic macroinvertebrate taxa.
Our results indicate the effectiveness of ethanol-based DNA in providing sequence information from 87% of taxa identified individually from mixture as compared to 89% in conventional tissue extracted DNA. Missing taxa in both DNA sources were from species with the lowest abundance (e.g. 1 individual) in the benthic mixture. Interestingly, we achieved 100% detection for taxa represented with more than 1% individuals in the mixture in both sources of DNA. Our multiplex amplification regime increased the detection as compared to any single primer set indicating the usefulness of using multiple primer sets in initial amplification of target genes.
Although NGS approaches have significantly increased the potential of using DNA information in biodiversity analysis, robust methods are needed to provide reliable data and alleviate sample-processing bottlenecks. Here we coupled non-destructive DNA access and a multiplex PCR approach in NGS environmental barcoding for effective data generation from benthic live-sorted samples collected in bulk and preserved in ethanol. Our study provides a possible solution to sampling and vouchering challenges in using benthic samples through next-generation environmental barcoding and facilitates wider utility of DNA information, especially species-specific DNA barcodes, in ecological and environmental studies and real-world applications such as biomonitoring programs.
PMCID: PMC3542036  PMID: 23259585

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