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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49710. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049710. Epub 2012 Nov 21.

DNA barcode sequencing from old type specimens as a tool in taxonomy: a case study in the diverse genus Eois (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).

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Department of Tropical Ecology and Animal Biodiversity, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


In this study we report on the sequencing of the COI barcode region from 96 historical specimens (92 type specimens +4 non-types) of Eois. Eois is a diverse clade of tropical geometrid moths and is the target of a number of ongoing studies on life-histories, phylogeny, co-evolution with host plants or parasitoids, and diversity patterns across temporal and spatial dimensions. The unequivocal application of valid names is crucial for all aspects of biodiversity research as well as monitoring and conservation efforts. The availability of barcodes from historical type specimens has the potential to facilitate the much-needed acceleration of species description. We performed non-destructive DNA extraction on the abdomens of Eois specimens between 79 and 157 years of age. We used six primer combinations (recovering between 109 and 130 bp each) to target the full-length barcode sequence of each specimen. We were able to obtain sequences for 91 of 96 specimens (success rate 94.8%). Sequence length ranged from 121 bp to full barcode sequences (658 bp), the average sequence length was ~500 bp. We detected a moderately strong and statistically significant negative correlation between specimen age and total sequence length, which is in agreement with expectations. The abdomen proved to be an exceedingly valuable source of DNA in old specimens of Lepidoptera. Barcode sequences obtained in this study are currently being used in an effort towards a step-wise taxonomic revision of Eois. We encourage that DNA barcodes obtained from types specimens should be included in all species descriptions and revisions whenever feasible.

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