DNA barcoding for identification of cryptic species in the field and existing museum collections: a case study of Aethomys and Micaelamys (Rodentia: Muridae)

  • Metlholo Andries Phukuntsi
  • Helene Brettschneider
  • Desiré L Dalton
  • Teresa Kearney
  • Jacqueline Badenhorst
  • Antoinette Kotze
Keywords: Aethomys, cryptic species identification, DNA barcoding, IRBP, Micaelamys, mtDNA

Abstract

DNA barcoding has been proposed as a method for species identification. However, this method has been criticised for its over-reliance on a single mitochondrial gene. In this study, four mitochondrial gene regions and one nuclear gene region were used to investigate their different abilities to identify tissue associated with museum specimens of Aethomys chrysophilus, Aethomys ineptus and Micaelamys namaquensis. Aethomys chrysophilus and the more recently elevated A. ineptus are indistinguishable on morphological grounds; however, their ranges are largely parapatric with only one syntopic locality currently known. All of the mitochondrial gene regions were able to separate M. namaquensis from A. chrysophilus and A. ineptus, but they varied in their abilities to resolve differences between A. chrysophilus and A. ineptus. The sequence results identified a specimen from KwaZulu- Natal that was misclassified and should have been identified as A. ineptus. Seven specimens that had not been reclassified following the elevation of A. ineptus to species level were identified as A. ineptus. Individuals of A. chrysophilus from Malawi could not be classified as either A. chrysophilus or A. ineptus, and may be a hybrid or a new, distinct species. This study indicates that DNA barcoding may be used to separate M. namaquensis from A. chrysophilus and A. ineptus, and although it was not able to separate A. chrysophilus and A. ineptus, it did indicate specimens from Malawi may be a new cryptic species.

Keywords: Aethomys, cryptic species identification, DNA barcoding, IRBP, Micaelamys, mtDNA

Section
Articles

Journal Identifiers


eISSN: 2224-073X
print ISSN: 1562-7020