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Nomenclature for the Nameless: A Proposal for an Integrative Molecular Taxonomy of Cryptic Diversity Exemplified by Planktonic Foraminifera

Abstract : Investigations of biodiversity, biogeography, and ecological processes rely on the identification of “species” as biologically significant, natural units of evolution. In this context, morphotaxonomy only provides an adequate level of resolution if reproductive isolation matches morphological divergence. In many groups of organisms, morphologically defined species often disguise considerable genetic diversity, which may be indicative of the existence of cryptic species. The diversity hidden by morphological species can be disentangled through genetic surveys, which also provide access to data on the ecological distribution of genetically circumscribed units. These units can be identified by unique DNA sequence motifs and allow studies of evolutionary and ecological processes at different levels of divergence. However, the nomenclature of genetically circumscribed units within morphological species is not regulated and lacks stability. This represents a major obstacle to efforts to synthesize and communicate data on genetic diversity for multiple stakeholders. We have been confronted with such an obstacle in our work on planktonic foraminifera, where the stakeholder community is particularly diverse, involving geochemists, paleoceanographers, paleontologists, and biologists, and the lack of stable nomenclature beyond the level of formal morphospecies prevents effective transfer of knowledge. To circumvent this problem, we have designed a stable, reproducible, and flexible nomenclature system for genetically circumscribed units, analogous to the principles of a formal nomenclature system. Our system is based on the definition of unique DNA sequence motifs collocated within an individual, their typification (in analogy with holotypes), utilization of their hierarchical phylogenetic structure to define levels of divergence below that of the morphospecies, and a set of nomenclature rules assuring stability. The resulting molecular operational taxonomic units remain outside the domain of current nomenclature codes, but are linked to formal morphospecies as regulated by the codes. Subsequently, we show how this system can be applied to classify genetically defined units using the SSU rDNA marker in planktonic foraminifera and we highlight its potential use for other groups of organisms where similarly high levels of connectivity between molecular and formal taxonomies can be achieved. [Cryptic species; genetic diversity; planktonic foraminifera; molecular nomenclature; MOTUs.]
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Contributor : Nathalie Lyvet Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 10:03:53 AM
Last modification on : Friday, September 30, 2022 - 11:12:08 AM

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Raphael Morard, Gilles Escarguel, Agnès K.M. Weiner, Aurore Andre, Christophe Jean Douady, et al.. Nomenclature for the Nameless: A Proposal for an Integrative Molecular Taxonomy of Cryptic Diversity Exemplified by Planktonic Foraminifera. Systematic Biology, 2016, 65 (5), pp.925-940. ⟨10.1093/sysbio/syw031⟩. ⟨hal-01368819⟩



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