Molecular diversity and species delimitation in the family Gasteruptiidae (Hymenoptera: Evanioidea)

Ben Parslow, Michael Schwarz, Mark Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gasteruptiidae Ashmead is an easily recognised family of wasps with circa 589 described species worldwide. Although well characterised by traditional taxonomy, multiple authors have commented on the extreme morphological uniformity of the group, making species-level identification difficult. This problem is enhanced by the lack of molecular data and molecular phylogenetic research for the group. We used 187 cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) barcodes to explore the efficiency of sequence data to delimitate species in Gasteruptiidae. We undertook a graphical and discussion-based comparison of six methods for species delimitation, with the success of methods judged based on known species boundaries and morphology. Both distance-based (ABGD and jMOTU threshold analysis) and tree-based (GMYC and PTP) methods compared across multiple parameters recovered variable molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTU’s), ranging from 55 to 123 MOTU’s. Tree-based methods tended to split known morphological species less than distance-based methods, with the single-threshold GMYC method the most concordant with known morphospecies. Our results suggest that the incorporation of molecular species delimitation techniques provides a powerful tool to assist in the interpretation of species and help direct informed decisions with taxonomic uncertainty in the family.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2020

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