DNA barcoding has been touted as a program that will efficiently and relatively cheaply inform on biological diversity; yet many exemplars purporting to demonstrate the efficacy of the method have been undertaken by its principal proponents. Critics of DNA barcoding identify insufficient within-taxon sampling coupled with the knowledge that levels of haplotypic paraphyly are rather high as key reasons to be sceptical of the value of an exclusively DNA-based taxonomic. Here I applied a DNA barcoding approach using mtDNA sequences from the cytochrome oxidase I gene to examine diversity in a group of endemic New Zealand grasshoppers belonging to the genus Sigaus. The mtDNA data revealed high genetic distances among individuals of a single morpho-species, but this diversity was geographically partitioned. Phylogenetic analysis supported at least four haplogroups within one species (Sigaus australis) but paraphyly of this species with respect to several others. In some instances two morphologically and ecologically distinct species shared identical mtDNA haplotypes. The mismatch of genealogy and taxonomy revealed in the Sigaus australis complex indicates that, if used in isolation, DNA barcoding data can be highly misleading about biodiversity. Furthermore, failure to take into account evidence from natural history and morphology when utilizing DNA barcoding will tend to conceal the underlying evolutionary processes associated with speciation.
© The Willi Hennig Society 2007.