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Accurate taxonomic identifications and species delimitations are a fundamental problem in biology. The complex taxonomy of Nematoda is primarily based on morphology, which is often dubious. DNA barcoding emerged as a handy tool to identify specimens and assess diversity, but its applications in Nematoda are incipient. We evaluated cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (cox1) efficiency as a DNA barcode for nematodes scrutinising 5241 sequences retrieved from BOLD and GenBank. The samples included genera with medical, agricultural, or ecological relevance: Anguillicola, Caenorhabditis, Heterodera, Meloidogyne, Onchocerca, Strongyloides, and Trichinella. We assessed cox1 performance through barcode gap and Probability of Correct Identification (PCI) analyses, and estimated species richness through Automatic Barcode Gap Discovery (ABGD). Each genus presented distinct gap ranges, mirroring the evolutionary diversity within Nematoda. Thus, to survey the diversity of the phylum, a careful definition of thresholds for lower taxonomic levels should be considered. PCIs were around 70% for both databases, highlighting operational biases and challenges in nematode taxonomy. ABGD inferred higher richness than the taxonomic labels informed by databases. The prevalence of specimen misidentifications and dubious species delimitations emphasise the value of integrative approaches to nematode taxonomy and systematics. Overall, cox1 is a relevant tool for integrative taxonomy of nematodes.


Leonardo Tresoldi Gonçalves, Filipe Michels Bianchi, Maríndia Deprá, Cláudia Calegaro-Marques. Barcoding a can of worms: testing cox1 performance as a DNA barcode of Nematoda. Genome. 2021 Jul;64(7):705-717

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PMID: 33460338

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