African Journal of Aquatic Science

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DNA barcoding of South Africa’s ornamental freshwater fish – are the names reliable?

K.A. van der Walt, T Mäkinen, E.R. Swartz, O.L.F. Weyl


Trade in freshwater ornamental fish in South Africa is currently regulated by a 'blacklist' to prevent potentially invasive taxa from establishing in the country. Because its effective implementation requires accurate identification, the aim of the present study was to test whether DNA barcoding is a useful tool to identify freshwater fishes in the South African pet trade. A total of 351 aquarium fish specimens, representing 185 traded taxa, were sequenced for the mitochondrial COI barcoding marker in 2011 and 2012. Lake Malawi cichlids were treated as a single group due to a lack of resolution in their COI marker, resulting in a data set of 137 successfully sequenced taxa. The Barcode Of Life Database (BOLD) and GenBank were used for taxonomic assignment comparisons. The genetic identification matched the scientific name inferred from the trade name for 60 taxa (43.8%) using BOLD, and for 67 taxa (48.9%) using GenBank. A genetic ID could not be assigned in 47 (34.3%) cases using BOLD and in 37 cases (27%) using GenBank. Whereas DNA barcoding can be a useful tool to help identify imported freshwater fishes, it requires further development of publicly available databases to become a reliable means of identification.

Keywords: aquarium trade, DNA-based identification, genetic databases, introduced species
AJOL African Journals Online