Contact: Diego Fontaneto (Unit of Verbania)
We are interested in obtaining reliable estimates of diversity. The main problem we address is whether we can obtain metrics of diversity that are a good representation of the reality. We thus investigate the discrepancies between traditional morphological taxonomy, DNA taxonomy and meta-barcoding through high-throughput sequencing at the species, population and community level.
We use different animal groups as test-case from different habitats, including inland and marine waters, soils, forests, natural and agricultural environments, and extreme habitats in high altitudes and polar regions. Some examples of taxonomic groups that we cover at ISE are isopods, antlions, rotifers, cladocerans, copepods, chironomids, etc. For these organisms we use different tools from morphology, including qualitative and quantitative descriptors and state-of-the-art methods in geometric morphometrics. For the approach using DNA taxonomy on the same organisms, we use different molecular markers and apply different tools, including DNA barcoding, Generalised Mixed Yule Coalescent model, Automatic Barcode Gap Discovery, Poisson Tree Process, K/theta, haplowebs, Bayesian Phylogenetics & Phylogeography, etc. In addition, we explicitly address questions on genetic diversity, trying to infer the main processes that create and maintain biological diversity. The usual outputs of this line of research include species lists, description of new species, biodiversity surveys, and eco-evolutionary analyses.
The most important recent publications on these topics include:
- (1) a comprehensive evaluation of the possibilities of meta-barcoding in the meiofauna (click here: http://www.pnas.org/content/109/40/16208.short ),
- (2) a commentary on the fact that species could not exist in organisms smaller than 1mm (click here: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/281/1783/20133076.short ),
- (3) a review of the DNA taxonomy methods based on single locus genetic data (click here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12526-015-0319-7 ),