DNA barcode references for Central and Northern European Odonata
Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) are important components in biomonitoring due to their amphibiotic lifecycle and specific habitat requirements. They are charismatic and popular insects, but can be challenging to identify despite large size and often distinct coloration, especially the immature stages. DNA-based assessment tools rely on validated DNA barcode reference libraries evaluated in a supraregional context to minimize taxonomic incongruence and identification mismatches.
This study reports on findings from the analysis of the most comprehensive DNA barcode dataset for Central European Odonata to date, with 103 out of 145 recorded European species included and publicly deposited in the Barcode of Life Data System (BOLD). The complete dataset includes 697 specimens (548 adults, 108 larvae) from 274 localities in 16 countries with a geographic emphasis on Central Europe. We used BOLD to generate sequence divergence metrics and to examine the taxonomic composition of the DNA barcode clusters within the dataset and in comparison with all data on BOLD.
Over 88% of the species included can be readily identified using their DNA barcodes and the reference dataset provided. Considering the complete European dataset, unambiguous identification is hampered in 12 species due to weak mitochondrial differentiation and partial haplotype sharing. However, considering the known species distributions only two groups of five species possibly co-occur, leading to an unambiguous identification of more than 95% of the analysed Odonata via DNA barcoding in real applications. The cases of small interspecific genetic distances and the observed deep intraspecific variation in Cordulia aenea (Linnaeus, 1758) are discussed in detail and the corresponding taxa in the public reference database are highlighted. They should be considered in future applications of DNA barcoding and metabarcoding and represent interesting evolutionary biological questions, which call for in depth analyses of the involved taxa throughout their distribution ranges.