DNA barcoding and the documentation of alien species establishment on sub-Antarctic Marion Island

Steven L. Chown, Brent J. Sinclair, Bettine Jansen Van Vuuren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Invasive alien species constitute a substantial conservation challenge in the terrestrial sub-Antarctic. Management plans, for many of the islands in the region, call for the prevention, early detection, and management of such alien species. However, such management may be confounded by difficulties of identification of immatures, especially of holometabolous insects. Here we show how a DNA barcoding approach has helped to overcome such a problem associated with the likely establishment of an alien moth species on Marion Island. The discovery of unidentifiable immatures of a noctuid moth species, 5 km from the research station, suggested that a new moth species had colonized the island. Efforts to identify the larvae by conventional means or by rearing to the adult stage failed. However, sequencing of 617 bp of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I gene, and comparison of the sequence data with sequences on GENBANK and the barcoding of life database enabled us to identify the species as Agrotis ipsilon (Hufnagel), a species of which adults had previously been found regularly at the research station. Discovery of immatures of this species, some distance from the research station, suggests that a population may have established. It is recommended that steps to be taken to eradicate the species from Marion Island.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-655
Number of pages5
JournalPolar Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Biological invasion
  • Establishment
  • Lepidoptera
  • Mitochondrial DNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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