Open Access: CC BY 4.0


Seppä, P., Helanterä, H., Trontti, K., Punttila, P., Chernenko, A., Martin, S.J. & Sundström, L.

Year: 2011


The many ways to delimit species: hairs, genes and surface chemistry

Journal: Myrmecological News

Volume: 15

Pages: 31-41

Type of contribution: Original Article

Supplementary material: No


Species identification forms the basis for understanding the diversity of the living world, but it is also a prerequisite for understanding many evolutionary patterns and processes. The most promising approach for correctly delimiting and identifying species is to integrate many types of information in the same study. Our aim was to test how cuticular hydrocarbons, traditional morphometrics, genetic polymorphisms in nuclear markers (allozymes and Dna microsatellites) and Dna barcoding (partial mitochondrial Coi gene) perform in delimiting species. As an example, we used two closely related Formica ants, F. fusca and F. lemani, sampled from a sympatric population in the northern part of their distribution. Morphological characters vary and overlap in different parts of their distribution areas, but cuticular hydrocarbons include a strong taxonomic signal and our aim is to test the degree to which morphological and genetic data correspond to the chemical data. In the morphological analysis, species were best separated by the combined number of hairs on pronotum and mesonotum, but individual workers overlapped in hair numbers, as previously noted by several authors. Nests of the two species were separated but not clustered according to species in a Principal Component Analysis made on nuclear genetic data. However, model-based Bayesian clustering resulted in perfect separation of the species and gave no indication of hybridization. Furthermore, F. lemani and F. fusca did not share any mitochondrial haplotypes, and the species were perfectly separated in a phylogenetic tree. We conclude that F. fusca and F. lemani are valid species that can be separated in our study area relatively well with all methods employed. However, the unusually small genetic differentiation in nuclear markers (FST = 0.12) shows that they are closely related, and occasional hybridization between F. fusca and F. lemani cannot be ruled out.

Open access, licensed under CC BY 4.0. © 2011 The Author(s).

Key words:

Allozymes, cuticular hydrocarbons, DNA barcoding, DNA microsatellites, Formica, morphology, species delimitation.

Publisher: The Austrian Society of Entomofaunistics

ISSN: Print: 1994-4136 - Online: 1997-3500

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