Molecular markers allow sibling species identification in red wood ants (Formica rufa group)

Authors

  • CHRISTIAN BERNASCONI,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
    2. Museum of Zoology, Lausanne, Switzerland
    • Christian Bernasconi, Department of Ecology and Evolution, Biophore – Quartier Sorge, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland. E-mail: christian.bernasconi@unil.ch

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  • PEKKA PAMILO,

    1. Department of Biology and Biocenter, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
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    • Present address: Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

  • DANIEL CHERIX

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
    2. Museum of Zoology, Lausanne, Switzerland
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Abstract

Red wood ants (Formica rufa group) constitute a group of species that are considered to be among the most promising bioindicators in forest ecosystems. However, because of their morphological similarity and intraspecific variability, morphological species identification can be difficult. Considerable expertise is necessary to discriminate between the sibling species F. lugubris and F. paralugubris, two species that often live in sympatry in the same Alpine forests. New taxonomic tools providing rapid and reliable species identification are needed. We present a simple and reliable molecular technique based on mtDNA (COI gene) and a restriction enzyme for discriminating between F. lugubris and F. paralugubris. We confirm the validity of this method with a Bayesian analysis based on microsatellites. This new molecular tool represents a clear breakthrough for discriminating between F. lugubris and F. paralugubris and is likely to be helpful in large-scale biomonitoring.

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