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MORPHOTAXONOMY VIS--VIS DNA BARCODING - THE COMPLIMENTARY TAXONOMIC TOOLS FOR ACCOUNTING INSECT BIODIVERSITY

Dr A P Singh1, Gurpreet Singh Makkar2 and Pardeep K. Chhuneja3


1 Associate Professor in Zoology, SGGS College (affiliated to Panjab University), Sec-26, Chandigarh; apsingh_60@yahoo.co.in 2 Assistant Professor (Plant Protection), Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; gsmakkar@pau.edu 3 Professor of Entomology, Dept. of Entomology, PAU, Ludhiana; pkchhuneja@rediffmail.com

Advancement of science is an outcome of broadening vision and development of technology. The same is true for the field of insect taxonomy. It has grown from a traditional morphological taxonomy, often called morphotaxonomy, to a composite discipline with great advancement in technology and content. Initially light microscopes, later scanning electron microscopes and recently the advanced molecular techniques have revolutionized the taxonomy. First two refined the morphotaxonomy while the latter gave a new dimension to taxonomy, tagged as molecular taxonomy (Lee, 2004). Amongst various molecular means, DNA barcoding has been recognized as a standard taxonomic tool for the modern taxonomists. This has not only helped in resolving taxonomic disputes, which otherwise could never have been possible through morphotaxonomy. The morphotaxonomy is slower, complex and has several other limitations (May, 2004). Cryptic/sibbling species could not be resolved through traditional morphotaxonomy. Though, the recent incorporation of genitalic studies and scanning electron micrographs in the ancillary of morphotaxonomy has enhanced its reliability in resolving such tasks, but it takes several days to months and sometime years to arrive at definite conclusions due to lengthy and labour intensive identification procedures involving use of taxonomic keys, comparison of individual characters with available descriptions or with types in the repositories. DNA barcoding on the other hand is simple and quick in delivering conclusions, not only at the group level but also for species, besides establishing the phylogenetic relations (Hebert et. al., 2005b). The technique makes use of sequence diversity in short, standardized mitochondrial gene/s to support species identification and discovery in large assemblages of life. A 648-bp long cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) mitochondrial gene forms the universal barcode for animal kingdom including insects. The sequences for the identified and described species are submitted to web-repositories. Later, submission of sequences of unknown specimens helps in immediate arrival at the conclusion whether species is already known or novel to science. Despite being a quick, easy and reliable technique for identifying specimens to a species level, bar-coding is no replacement (Ebach et. al., 2005b) for comprehensive taxonomic analysis and relies heavily on morphotaxonomy. Rather the two tools must be utilized in a complimentary or integrative (Dayrat, 2005) manner for efficient identifications; and to achieve larger goal of taxonomic and biodiversity research.
REFERENCES

1. Dayrat, B. (2005). Towards integrative taxonomy. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 85: 407- 415.
2. Ebach, M.C. and Holdrege, C. (2005b). DNA bar-coding is no substitute to taxonomy. Nature. 434: 697. 3. Hebert, P. D. N. and Gregory, T. R. (2005). The promise of DNA bar-coding for Taxonomy. Systematic Biology. 54: 852-859. 4. Lee, M. S. Y. (2004). The molecularization of taxonomy. Invertebr. Syst. 18: 1- 6. 5. May, R. M. (2004). Tomorrows taxonomy collecting new species in the field will remain the rate limiting step. Philos. T. Roy. Soc. B. 359: 733-734.