DNA barcoding the floras of biodiversity hotspots

Renaud Lahaye, Michelle Van Der Bank, Diego Bogarin, Jorge Warner, Franco Pupulin, Guillaume Gigot, Olivier Maurin, Sylvie Duthoit, Timothy G. Barraclough, Vincent Savolainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

729 Citations (Scopus)


DNA barcoding is a technique in which species identification is performed by using DNA sequences from a small fragment of the genome, with the aim of contributing to a wide range of ecological and conservation studies in which traditional taxonomic identification is not practical. DNA barcoding is well established in animals, but there is not yet any universally accepted barcode for plants. Here, we undertook intensive field collections in two biodiversity hotspots (Mesoamerica and southern Africa). Using >1,600 samples, we compared eight potential barcodes. Going beyond previous plant studies, we assessed to what extent a "DNA barcoding gap" is present between intra- and interspecific variations, using multiple accessions per species. Given its adequate rate of variation, easy amplification, and alignment, we identified a portion of the plastid matK gene as a universal DNA barcode for flowering plants. Critically, we further demonstrate the applicability of DNA barcoding for biodiversity inventories. In addition, analyzing > 1,000 species of Mesoamerican orchids, DNA barcoding with matK alone reveals cryptic species and proves useful in identifying species listed in Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) appendixes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2923-2928
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2008


  • Kruger National Park
  • Mesoamerica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Multidisciplinary


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