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PLoS One. 2014 Apr 11;9(4):e94723. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094723. eCollection 2014.

A streamlined system for species diagnosis in Caenorhabditis (Nematoda: Rhabditidae) with name designations for 15 distinct biological species.

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Ecole Normale Supérieure, Institut de Biologie de l'ENS (IBENS), Paris, France; CNRS UMR 8197, Paris, France; Inserm U1024, Paris, France.
Institut de Biologie Valrose, CNRS UMR7277, Parc Valrose, Nice, France; INSERM U1091, Nice, France; Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, UFR Sciences, Nice, France.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The rapid pace of species discovery outstrips the rate of species description in many taxa. This problem is especially acute for Caenorhabditis nematodes, where the naming of distinct species would greatly improve their visibility and usage for biological research, given the thousands of scientists studying Caenorhabditis. Species description and naming has been hampered in Caenorhabditis, in part due to the presence of morphologically cryptic species despite complete biological reproductive isolation and often enormous molecular divergence. With the aim of expediting species designations, here we propose and apply a revised framework for species diagnosis and description in this group. Our solution prioritizes reproductive isolation over traditional morphological characters as the key feature in delineating and diagnosing new species, reflecting both practical considerations and conceptual justifications. DNA sequence divergence criteria help prioritize crosses for establishing patterns of reproductive isolation among the many species of Caenorhabditis known to science, such as with the ribosomal internal transcribed spacer-2 (ITS2) DNA barcode. By adopting this approach, we provide new species name designations for 15 distinct biological species, thus increasing the number of named Caenorhabditis species in laboratory culture by nearly 3-fold. We anticipate that the improved accessibility of these species to the research community will expand the opportunities for study and accelerate our understanding of diverse biological phenomena.

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