DNA barcoding of butterflies from Austria
With 211 species of butterflies (Lepidoptera, Papilionoidea), Austria is one of the most diverse regions in Europe. Although species diversity has been studied over two centuries, genetic diversity is still largely unknown. However, genetic diversity is a prerequisite for adapting strategies of species to new challenges, such as climate warming. In order to gain insight into genetic diversity about 1200 DNA barcodes of 200 butterfly species (94.5% of the occurring species) were produced, which are available to other researchers on BOLD. It could be shown that 172 species can be uniquely identified by their barcodes, including the morphologically difficult to distinguish sister species Leptidea sinapis/Leptidea juvernica, Colias hyale/Colias alfacariensis, Boloria napaea/Boloria pales and Aricia artaxerxes/Aricia agestis. For the remaining 28 species, overlapping barcodes or barcode sharing were observed, indicating introgression, hybridization or relatively young species. In addition, it could be shown that in Lycaena tityrus, L. alciphron and Euphydryas aurinia the controversially discussed alpine subspecies are genetically different from the lowland populations, which supports the assumption that they are different species. The fact that even in a seemingly well-studied group like the butterflies cryptic species can be found, which, like E. aurinia for example, are even listed in Appendices II and IV of the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive, underlines the importance of DNA barcoding for recording native biodiversity.
Mag. Dr. Peter Huemer (Project Management)
Benjamin Wiesmair, MA, BSc
Natural History Collections, Tyrolean Landesmuseen
Project status: completed
The project is supported by Blühendes Österreich – REWE International non-profit private foundation (www.bluehendesoesterreich.at)