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 Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>