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Global‘Herps’ come in from the cold


New barcoding campaign for amphibians, reptiles

Herpetologists now have a DNA barcoding campaign to call their own.

Dubbed Cold Code for its focus on cold-blooded amphibians and non-avian reptiles, the new initiative is based at the Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ) and funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation of China.

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The project is being coordinated by a steering committee comprising iBOL’s coordinator of reptiles and amphibians Bob Murphy (KIZ), Miguel Vences (Technical University of Braunschweig , Germany), Steve Donnellan (South Australia Museum, Australia), Wen-Zhi Wang, Jing Che and Ya-ping Zhang (KIZ, China). Regional and taxonomic experts include Zoltán Nagy (Congo Biodiversity Institute) and Elizabeth Prendini (American Museum of Natural History, USA), who are coordinating mainland Africa and Uwe Fritz (Dresden Museum of Zoology, Germany) who is leading a global initiative for turtles.

The steering committee will establish protocols and recommendations on issues such as sampling strategies (number of individual samples per site or species, voucher requirements, etc.) and the policy for public release of barcode data in Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) and GenBank.

Dr. Wen-Zhi Wang will coordinate laboratory work at KIZ, which will support the Cold Code campaign by providing free sequencing for the first 10 specimens of any species.

Meanwhile, new research by several members of the Cold Code campaign promises to remove a major stumbling block for barcoding amphibians – the availability of universal primers for the standard barcoding gene COI.

In an upcoming paper *, the researchers report that two new pairs of primers, when used in concert, can universally amplify and sequence all three orders of Chinese amphibians as represented by 36 genera. This taxonomic diversity, which includes caecilians, salamanders and frogs, suggests that the new primer pairs will universally amplify COI for the vast majority of amphibian species.

The authors tested this theory by using the new primers to investigate cryptic diversity in three endemic Asian genera of salamanders: Paramesotriton, Pachytriton, and Tylototriton. They also assessed the value of DNA barcodes for enhancing knowledge of the salamanders’ diversity, matrilineal history and geographic distribution and then investigated how these data can be applied in conservation planning by using the salamanders as a model system in Asia.

* Che, J., H.-M. Chen, J.-Q. Jin, J.-X. Yang, K. Jiang, Z.-Y. Yuan, R.W. Murphy, and Y.-P. Zhang. In press. Universal COI primers for DNA barcoding amphibians. Molecular Ecology Resources.


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