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Characterization and comparison of poorly known moth communities through DNA barcoding in two Afrotropical environments in Gabon

Delabye, Sylvain, Rougerie, Rodolphe, Bayendi, Sandrine, Andeime-Eyene, Myrianne, Zakharov, Evgeny V., deWaard, Jeremy R., Hebert, Paul D.N., Kamgang, Roger, Le Gall, Philippe, Lopez-Vaamonde, Carlos, Mavoungou, Jacques-François, Moussavou, Ghislain, Moulin, Nicolas, Oslisly, Richard, Rahola, Nil, Sebag, David, Decaëns, Thibaud
Genome 2019 v.62 no.3 pp. 96-107
DNA barcoding, ecosystems, habitats, insect communities, invertebrates, moths, regional surveys, savannas, species richness, Gabon
Biodiversity research in tropical ecosystems—popularized as the most biodiverse habitats on Earth—often neglects invertebrates, yet invertebrates represent the bulk of local species richness. Insect communities in particular remain strongly impeded by both Linnaean and Wallacean shortfalls, and identifying species often remains a formidable challenge inhibiting the use of these organisms as indicators for ecological and conservation studies. Here we use DNA barcoding as an alternative to the traditional taxonomic approach for characterizing and comparing the diversity of moth communities in two different ecosystems in Gabon. Though sampling remains very incomplete, as evidenced by the high proportion (59%) of species represented by singletons, our results reveal an outstanding diversity. With about 3500 specimens sequenced and representing 1385 BINs (Barcode Index Numbers, used as a proxy to species) in 23 families, the diversity of moths in the two sites sampled is higher than the current number of species listed for the entire country, highlighting the huge gap in biodiversity knowledge for this country. Both seasonal and spatial turnovers are strikingly high (18.3% of BINs shared between seasons, and 13.3% between sites) and draw attention to the need to account for these when running regional surveys. Our results also highlight the richness and singularity of savannah environments and emphasize the status of Central African ecosystems as hotspots of biodiversity.