Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hidden diversity: DNA ’barcoding’ reveals a common butterfly is actually 10 different species

29.09.2004


Credit: Daniel Janzen


A common butterfly, found in a variety of habitats from the southern United States to northern Argentina, is actually comprised of at least 10 separate species, according to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania.

Astraptes fulgerator, a medium-large skipper butterfly, is a routine visitor to urban gardens and tropical rainforests. While the "species" has been known to science since 1775, only now has examination of a small and standardized signature piece of the genome – a technique called DNA barcoding – shown that this "species" is really an amalgam of a number of genetically distinct lineages, each with different caterpillars and preferences in food plant and ecosystem.

However, as many as six species can live in the same place, which strongly suggests mating segregation. Because the adults differ at best only slightly in appearance -- so slightly that it was attributed to ordinary "variation" -- this finding may have larger implications for maintaining biodiversity.



"It raises the questions of how many other species out there are really multiple species like this one and what that might mean to wildlife conservation," said Daniel Janzen, co-author of the study and professor in the Department of Biology in Penn’s School Arts and Sciences. "We might lament the local extinction of a plant or animal but take comfort in the notion that the species lives on elsewhere. Well, what if that extinct animal was the only example of a genetically distinct species, hiding inside a morphology similar to the surviving species?"

Janzen and his colleagues report their findings in the Sept. 29 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their research began during 25-year-long inventory of the wildlife in the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, a large conservation zone of dry, rain and cloud forests in northwestern Costa Rica. They noticed that, amid the more than 2,500 wild-caught caterpillars of A. fulgerator, many could be separated by slight variations in color, which then could be linked to the particular plants the caterpillars ate.

It soon became obvious that A. fulgerator was, indeed, a complex of a number of separate species whose adult forms looked remarkably similar. When the centuries-old method of telling insects apart -- the examination of their genitalia by John Burns at the Smithsonian Institution –- proved inconclusive, the team turned to a recently emerging method for discriminating species: DNA "barcoding,"

In much the same way that supermarket barcoding can distinguish one brand of canned beets from another, DNA barcoding is an attempt to classify species by variations in a small signature and standardized portion of gene called cytochrome c oxidase I, common to all life. Based at the University of Guelph in Canada, the Barcode of Life Database can determine patterns of COI gene variation within a given group of specimens. If the specimens in question differ by more than a few percent in their base pairs of DNA in this gene, it is likely that they have come from different populations.

Paul Hebert and Erin Penton at Guelph were able to extract the necessary DNA from 484 adult butterflies deposited at the Smithsonian –- all raised from the much larger pool of caterpillars caught in Costa Rica by Janzen, Winnie Hallwachs and a team of 17 Costa Rican parataxonomists –- despite the fact that these butterflies have been dried museum specimens for as long as 23 years. Where possible, they included at least 20 individuals from each group of food plant, color variation and preferred habitat. As a result, they found 10distinct species within the group known as A. fulgerator in an area the size of the greater Philadelphia area and as many as six species in a place no larger than the 262-acre Penn campus.

"Given the vast range of the supposed A. fulgerator species, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize that there are probably a great many more hidden species out there," Janzen said. "Our results add to the evidence that cryptic species are prevalent, which I believe is of critical importance if we are to document the health of the environment and the richness of global biodiversity."

Greg Lester | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.upenn.edu
http://www.barcodinglife.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht More genes are active in high-performance maize
19.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht How plants see light
19.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>