Molecular tools have revolutionized the exploration of biodiversity, especially in organisms for which traditional taxonomy is difficult, such as for microscopic animals (meiofauna). Environmental (eDNA) metabarcode surveys of DNA extracted from sediment samples are increasingly popular for surveying biodiversity. Most eDNA surveys use the nuclear gene-encoding small-subunit rDNA gene (18S) as a marker; however, different markers and metrics used for delimiting species have not yet been evaluated against each other or against morphologically defined species (morphospecies). We assessed more than 12,000 meiofaunal sequences of 18S and of the main alternatively used marker [Cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) mtDNA] belonging to 55 datasets covering three taxonomic ranks. Our results show that 18S reduced diversity estimates by a factor of 0.4 relative to morphospecies, whereas COI increased diversity estimates by a factor of 7.6. Moreover, estimates of species richness using COI were robust among three of four commonly used delimitation metrics, whereas estimates using 18S varied widely with the different metrics. We show that meiofaunal diversity has been greatly underestimated by 18S eDNA surveys and that the use of COI provides a better estimate of diversity. The suitability of COI is supported by cross-mating experiments in the literature and evolutionary analyses of discreteness in patterns of genetic variation. Furthermore its splitting of morphospecies is expected from documented levels of cryptic taxa in exemplar meiofauna. We recommend against using 18S as a marker for biodiversity surveys and suggest that use of COI for eDNA surveys could provide more accurate estimates of species richness in the future.

Tang, C.; Leasi, F.; Obertegger, U.; Kieneke, A.; Barraclough, T.; Fontaneto, D. (2012). The widely used small subunit 18S rDNA molecule greatly underestimates true diversity in biodiversity surveys of the meiofauna. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 109 (40): 16208-16212. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1209160109 handle: http://hdl.handle.net/10449/21541

The widely used small subunit 18S rDNA molecule greatly underestimates true diversity in biodiversity surveys of the meiofauna

Obertegger, Ulrike;
2012-01-01

Abstract

Molecular tools have revolutionized the exploration of biodiversity, especially in organisms for which traditional taxonomy is difficult, such as for microscopic animals (meiofauna). Environmental (eDNA) metabarcode surveys of DNA extracted from sediment samples are increasingly popular for surveying biodiversity. Most eDNA surveys use the nuclear gene-encoding small-subunit rDNA gene (18S) as a marker; however, different markers and metrics used for delimiting species have not yet been evaluated against each other or against morphologically defined species (morphospecies). We assessed more than 12,000 meiofaunal sequences of 18S and of the main alternatively used marker [Cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) mtDNA] belonging to 55 datasets covering three taxonomic ranks. Our results show that 18S reduced diversity estimates by a factor of 0.4 relative to morphospecies, whereas COI increased diversity estimates by a factor of 7.6. Moreover, estimates of species richness using COI were robust among three of four commonly used delimitation metrics, whereas estimates using 18S varied widely with the different metrics. We show that meiofaunal diversity has been greatly underestimated by 18S eDNA surveys and that the use of COI provides a better estimate of diversity. The suitability of COI is supported by cross-mating experiments in the literature and evolutionary analyses of discreteness in patterns of genetic variation. Furthermore its splitting of morphospecies is expected from documented levels of cryptic taxa in exemplar meiofauna. We recommend against using 18S as a marker for biodiversity surveys and suggest that use of COI for eDNA surveys could provide more accurate estimates of species richness in the future.
DNA barcodes
Species delimitation
Microinvertebrates
Environmental DNA
Settore BIO/07 - ECOLOGIA
2012
Tang, C.; Leasi, F.; Obertegger, U.; Kieneke, A.; Barraclough, T.; Fontaneto, D. (2012). The widely used small subunit 18S rDNA molecule greatly underestimates true diversity in biodiversity surveys of the meiofauna. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 109 (40): 16208-16212. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1209160109 handle: http://hdl.handle.net/10449/21541
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