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C R Biol. 2010 Jan;333(1):11-6. doi: 10.1016/j.crvi.2009.10.003. Epub 2010 Feb 8.

Performance of distance-based DNA barcoding in the molecular identification of primates.

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Oxford Brookes University, School of Social Sciences and Law, Department of Anthropology and Geography, OX3 0BP Oxford, United Kingdom.


For comparative primatology proper recognition of basal taxa (i.e. species) is indispensable, and in this the choice of a suitable gene with high phylogenetic resolution is crucial. For the goals of species identification in animals, the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) has been introduced as standard marker. Making use of the difference in intra- and interspecific genetic variation--the DNA barcoding gap--cox1 can be used as a fast and accurate marker for the identification of animal species. For the Order Primates we compare the performance of cox1 (166 sequences; 50 nominal species) in species-identification with that of two other mitochondrial markers, 16S ribosomal RNA (412 sequences, 92 species) and cytochrome b (cob: 547 sequences, 72 species). A wide gap exist between intra- and interspecific divergences for both cox1 and cob genes whereas this gap is less apparent for 16S, indicating that rRNA genes are less suitable for species delimitation in DNA barcoding. For those species where multiple sequences are available there are significant differences in the intraspecific genetic distances between different mitochondrial markers, without, however, showing a consistent pattern. We conclude that cox1 allows accurate differentiation of species and as such DNA barcoding may have an important role to play in comparative primatology.

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