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Earthworm DNA barcoding paper published in Applied Soil Ecology

These are the results of the Eisenia Barcoding Initiative, co-coordinated by AllGenetics.
Mar 30, 2015

The Eisenia Barcoding Initiative (EBI) is a project launched in 2013 by ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH,​ the Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum Frankfurt am Main, and AllGenetics. The results of this initiative have just been published in the journal Applied Soil Ecology.

As part of the EBI, a ring test was carried out by five DNA barcoding laboratories to analyse samples of E. fetida, E. andrei, and Eisenia sp. The main goals of this work were (1) to evaluate whether COI sequencing is a robust method for molecular characterisation of Eisenia; (2) to assess the consistency of results among DNA barcoding laboratories; and (3) to check the Eisenia species / strains currently used by ecotoxicology laboratories. The results of this ring test are now available in this paper.

The results of the EBI demonstrate that:

  • E. fetida was often misidentified as E. andrei by the ecotoxicology laboratories when the identification was based on morphological characters alone.
  • DNA barcoding is a reliable and practical method for the accurate identification of Eisenia species.
  • There is strong evidence supporting the existence of a new Eisenia cryptic species.
  • Earthworms used for ecotoxicological tests should regularly be (re-) identified by DNA barcoding.

These results will soon be presented to international organisations (OECD, ISO) to introduce DNA barcoding as a quality assurance method in terrestrial ecotoxicology guidelines.