The Barcode Blog

A mostly scientific blog about short DNA sequences for species identification and discovery. I encourage your commentary. -- Mark Stoeckle

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DNA to help skates

In current Aquatic Conserv Marine Freshwater Ecosys, researchers from Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, France, report on 80 years of taxonomic confusion that has contributed to near extinction for a once abundant north Atlantic skate. Iglésias and colleagues found that two forms, lumped together in 1926 as European common skate (Dipturus batis, Linnaeus 1798), in fact represent distinct species with morphologic, genetic (in mitochondrial genome), and life history differences.

skateAs the researchers report, this taxonomic oversight obscured the disappearance of one species, the flapper skate (D. cf. intermedia) because it was confused with the less threatened  blue skate (D. cf. flossada).  Iglesias and colleagues marketplace survey revealed additional sources of confusion. They analyzed 4,110 skates landed over a 2 year period from 103 fishing cruises in four main French ports by 41 different French commercial trawlers, and found that five skate species (included the two named above) from two genera are variously lumped together under just two marketplace names, the aforementioned “European common skate (D. batis)” and “longnose skate (D. oxyrinchus);” according to their analysis the latter species, formerly common, is also locally extirpated, and most specimens with this name represent other species.

For newly rediscovered blue and flapper skates, the researchers report 20 diagnostic substitutions in approximately 2600-nucleotide segment spanning 12s and 16s RNA. Other than the 10 mitochondrial sequences included in this report, I find only two other D. batis sequences in GenBank (and none as yet under either of two resurrected names). It is remarkable that so little genetic information has been collected for such recently abundant, commercially important (annual landings in 1000’s of tons), and now threatened species. To aid standardized application of molecular identification techniques, I hope the authors will also analyze COI barcode sequences for their specimens. Then I look forward to school children aiding conservation and helping find new species by DNA barcoding specimens from their local fish markets!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 at 12:12 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “DNA to help skates”

  1. Robert Hanner Says:

    It is indeed a pity that COI was not used in conjunction with this study as more than 150 Dipturus specimens representing more than 30 species have been barcoded and their sequence profiles and collateral data are lodged in the Barcode of Life Data system


    Moreover, COI barcode sequences have even been included in the description of a new species of Dipturus in order to help disambiguate and reconcile the application of names going forward…


    yet we cannot place the results of the French study within the larger international sampling because they did not include COI. Note that if they would send samples of their taxa, FISH-BOL could cover the expense of barcoding so that their results can be nested within the larger global survey.


About this site

This web site is an outgrowth of the Taxonomy, DNA, and Barcode of Life meeting held at Banbury Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, September 9-12, 2003. It is designed and managed by Mark Stoeckle, Perrin Meyer, and Jason Yung at the Program for the Human Environment (PHE) at The Rockefeller University.

About the Program for the Human Environment

The involvement of the Program for the Human Environment in DNA barcoding dates to Jesse Ausubel's attendance in February 2002 at a conference in Nova Scotia organized by the Canadian Center for Marine Biodiversity. At the conference, Paul Hebert presented for the first time his concept of large-scale DNA barcoding for species identification. Impressed by the potential for this technology to address difficult challenges in the Census of Marine Life, Jesse agreed with Paul on encouraging a conference to explore the contribution taxonomy and DNA could make to the Census as well as other large-scale terrestrial efforts. In his capacity as a Program Director of the Sloan Foundation, Jesse turned to the Banbury Conference Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, whose leader Jan Witkowski prepared a strong proposal to explore both the scientific reliability of barcoding and the processes that might bring it to broad application. Concurrently, PHE researcher Mark Stoeckle began to work with the Hebert lab on analytic studies of barcoding in birds. Our involvement in barcoding now takes 3 forms: assisting the organizational development of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life and the Barcode of Life Initiative; contributing to the scientific development of the field, especially by studies in birds, and contributing to public understanding of the science and technology of barcoding and its applications through improved visualization techniques and preparation of brochures and other broadly accessible means, including this website. While the Sloan Foundation continues to support CBOL through a grant to the Smithsonian Institution, it does not provide financial support for barcoding research itself or support to the PHE for its research in this field.