In this new EZ lab publication, we show that, using DNA barcodes, unidentified species can be assigned to higher taxonomic ranks, that is genera and families, with high accuracy (Full text).
DNA barcoding is an increasingly fast and inexpensive method of identification, especially as compared to manual identification of unknowns by increasingly rare expert taxonomists. Because most species on Earth are undescribed, the question arises whether unidentified species can, using DNA barcodes, be accurately assigned to more inclusive groups such as genera and families—taxonomic ranks of putatively monophyletic groups for which the global inventory is more complete and stable. We used BLAST queries of each sequence against the entire library and got the top ten hits. The percent sequence identity was reported from these hits (PIdent, range 75–100%). Accurate assignment of higher taxa (PIdent above which errors totaled less than 5%) occurred for genera at PIdent values >95 and families at PIdent values ≥ 91, suggesting these as heuristic thresholds for accurate generic and familial identifications in spiders. Accuracy of identification increases with numbers of species/genus and genera/family in the library; above five genera per family and fifteen species per genus all higher taxon assignments were correct. We propose that using percent sequence identity between conventional barcode sequences may be a feasible and reasonably accurate method to identify animals to family/genus.