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Diversity among parasitic wasps is even greater than suspected
Date:8/29/2008

ed by the taxonomists were confirmed in the genetic analysis.

But the DNA barcoding also revealed that some wasps that looked alike and were once thought to belong to a single species were actually several different species, each of which preyed on only one or two species of caterpillar hosts.

"The most extreme case of overlooked diversity is the morphospecies Apanteles leucostigmus," the authors wrote. Barcoding revealed that instead of being a single species that preyed on 32 different species of related caterpillars, as was previously thought, the wasps formerly classified as A. leucostigmus could be grouped into 36 provisional species, "each attacking one or a very few closely related species of caterpillars."

"One of the messages of this paper is that you really need all of these different kinds of data in order to tell the species apart that just using the morphology alone, or the genetic data or the ecological information alone isn't enough," said University of Illinois entomology professor James Whitfield, who led the taxonomic study. "However, once the species are distinguished, anyone can use the DNA barcode to rapidly and accurately identify one of them."

"This represents microgastrine wasps reared from approximately 3,500 caterpillar species in ACG," said Josephine Rodriguez, a doctoral student and microgastrine expert in Whitfield's lab. "Since there are an estimated 10,000 species of caterpillars there, including many unsampled ones that mine inside leaves or live in fungi, this is just the tip of the microgastrine iceberg."

Whitfield credits Rodriguez, an avowed microgastrine enthusiast, with pushing the research forward in a way that helped integrate the work of three very different laboratories. She and two assistants processed more than 5,000 specimens from the ACG ecological study and shipped them to the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph for barcoding. She also worked wi
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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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