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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2007 Jul;44(1):325-45. Epub 2006 Dec 20.

Patterns of evolution of mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase I and II DNA and implications for DNA barcoding.

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CW403 Biological Sciences Building, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta., Canada. <>


DNA barcoding has focused increasing attention on the use of specific regions of mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase I and II genes (COI-COII) to diagnose and delimit species. However, our understanding of patterns of molecular evolution within these genes is limited. Here we examine patterns of nucleotide divergence in COI-COII within species and between species pairs of Lepidoptera and Diptera using a sliding window analysis. We found that: (1) locations of maximum divergence within COI-COII were highly variable among taxa surveyed in this study; (2) there was major overlap in divergence within versus between species, including within individual COI-COII profiles; (3) graphical DNA saturation analysis showed variation in percent nucleotide transitions throughout COI-COII and only limited association with levels of DNA divergence. Ultimately, no single optimally informative 600 bp location was found within the 2.3 kb of COI-COII, and the DNA barcoding region was no better than other regions downstream in COI. Consequently, we recommend that researchers should maximize sequence length to increase the probability of sampling regions of high phylogenetic informativeness, and to minimize stochastic variation in estimating total divergence.

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