College Honors Program


Species Delimitation in the Pseudanophthalmus robustus Species Group Using DNA Barcoding

Date of Creation


Document Type

Campus Access Only



First Advisor

Karen Ober


“Species” is a fundamental unit of biology but the definition of it is controversial. In biology, there are more than 20 different species concepts that have been proposed, and the inability to agree on a particular one has consequences that affect researchers, taxonomists, and conservationists. Species delimitation is integral to the species concept debate, and each concept has its own boundaries and criteria for separating and classifying species. DNA sequence data can be a useful tool to identify and delimit species. DNA barcoding uses a fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene and is a tool that allows for a single gene to be used to determine what species a particular organism is from. The Pseudanophthalmus robustus species group consist of four closely related species of cave beetles from the Appalachian region of Kentucky and Tennessee. These four species are remarkably similar and have overlapping ranges in some areas. DNA Barcoding has allowed for proper classification of specimens in this species group and reconstruction of the species group’s evolutionary history. Our data suggests that this species group contained cryptic species and that the number of species in this group is greater than four. These results have significant consequences for conservation efforts as well as formulating a better understanding of the biodiversity that inhabits the Earth.


Reader: Justin McAlister

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