The importance of DNA barcode choice in biogeographic analyses - a case study on marine midges of the genus Clunio

Genome. 2021 Mar;64(3):242-252. doi: 10.1139/gen-2019-0191. Epub 2020 Jun 8.


DNA barcodes are widely used for species identification and biogeographic studies. Here, we compare the use of full mitochondrial genomes versus DNA barcodes and other mitochondrial DNA fragments for biogeographic and ecological analyses. Our dataset comprised 120 mitochondrial genomes from the genus Clunio (Diptera: Chironomidae), comprising five populations from two closely related species (Clunio marinus and Clunio balticus) and three ecotypes. We extracted cytochrome oxidase c subunit I (COI) barcodes and partitioned the mitochondrial genomes into non-overlapping windows of 750 or 1500 bp. Haplotype networks and diversity indices were compared for these windows and full mitochondrial genomes (15.4 kb). Full mitochondrial genomes indicate complete geographic isolation between populations, but do not allow for conclusions on the separation of ecotypes or species. COI barcodes have comparatively few polymorphisms, ideal for species identification, but do not resolve geographic isolation. Many of the similarly sized 750 bp windows have higher nucleotide and haplotype diversity than COI barcodes, but still do not resolve biogeography. Only when increasing the window size to 1500 bp, two windows resolve biogeography reasonably well. Our results suggest that the design and use of DNA barcodes in biogeographic studies must be carefully evaluated for each investigated species.

Keywords: DNA barcoding; codage à barres de l’ADN; cytochrome oxidase I; cytochrome oxydase I; diversity; diversité; ecotype; génome mitochondrial; haplotype network; mitochondrial genome; réseau d’haplotypes; écotype.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chironomidae / classification*
  • Chironomidae / genetics
  • DNA Barcoding, Taxonomic*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics
  • Europe
  • Genome, Mitochondrial
  • Haplotypes
  • Phylogeography


  • Electron Transport Complex IV