Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Evaluating the Utility of Single-Locus DNA Barcoding for the Identification of Ribbon Worms (Phylum Nemertea)

Sundberg, Per; Kvist, Sebastian; Strand, Malin


Whereas many nemerteans (ribbon worms; phylum Nemertea) can be identified from external characters if observed alive, many are still problematic. When it comes to preserved specimens (as in e. g. marine inventories), there is a particular need for specimen identifier alternatives. Here, we evaluate the utility of COI (cytochrome c oxidase subunit I) as a single- locus barcoding gene. We sequenced, data mined, and compared gene fragments of COI for 915 individuals representing 161 unique taxonomic labels for 71 genera, and subjected different constellations of these to both distance-based and character-based DNA barcoding approaches, as well as species delimitation analyses. We searched for the presence or absence of a barcoding gap at different taxonomic levels (phylum, subclass, family and genus) in an attempt to understand at what level a putative barcoding gap presents itself. This was performed both using the taxonomic labels as species predictors and using objectively inferred species boundaries recovered from our species delimitation analyses. Our data suggest that COI works as a species identifier for most groups within the phylum, but also that COI data are obscured by misidentifications in sequence databases. Further, our results suggest that the number of predicted species within the dataset is (in some cases substantially) higher than the number of unique taxonomic labels-this highlights the presence of several cryptic lineages within well-established taxa and underscores the urgency of an updated taxonomic backbone for the phylum.

Published in

2016, Volume: 11, number: 5, article number: e0155541

    Associated SLU-program


    UKÄ Subject classification

    Bioinformatics and Systems Biology

    Publication Identifiers


    Permanent link to this page (URI)