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Molecular species identification of Central European ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) using nuclear rDNA expansion segments and DNA barcodes

Michael J Raupach12*, Jonas J Astrin1, Karsten Hannig3, Marcell K Peters1, Mark Y Stoeckle4 and Johann-Wolfgang Wägele1

Author Affiliations

1 Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Adenauerallee 160-162, 53113 Bonn, Germany

2 Senckenberg am Meer, Deutsches Zentrum für Marine Biodiversitätsforschung, Südstrand 44, 26382 Wilhelmshaven, Germany

3 Dresdener Straße 6, 45731 Waltrop, Germany

4 The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York NY 10065, UK

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Frontiers in Zoology 2010, 7:26  doi:10.1186/1742-9994-7-26

Published: 13 September 2010



The identification of vast numbers of unknown organisms using DNA sequences becomes more and more important in ecological and biodiversity studies. In this context, a fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) gene has been proposed as standard DNA barcoding marker for the identification of organisms. Limitations of the COI barcoding approach can arise from its single-locus identification system, the effect of introgression events, incomplete lineage sorting, numts, heteroplasmy and maternal inheritance of intracellular endosymbionts. Consequently, the analysis of a supplementary nuclear marker system could be advantageous.


We tested the effectiveness of the COI barcoding region and of three nuclear ribosomal expansion segments in discriminating ground beetles of Central Europe, a diverse and well-studied invertebrate taxon. As nuclear markers we determined the 18S rDNA: V4, 18S rDNA: V7 and 28S rDNA: D3 expansion segments for 344 specimens of 75 species. Seventy-three species (97%) of the analysed species could be accurately identified using COI, while the combined approach of all three nuclear markers provided resolution among 71 (95%) of the studied Carabidae.


Our results confirm that the analysed nuclear ribosomal expansion segments in combination constitute a valuable and efficient supplement for classical DNA barcoding to avoid potential pitfalls when only mitochondrial data are being used. We also demonstrate the high potential of COI barcodes for the identification of even closely related carabid species.