Systematic revision of Brachypelma red-kneed tarantulas (Araneae:Theraphosidae), and the use of DNA barcodes to assist in the identification and conservation of CITES-listed species.
Invertebrate Systematics 31(2):157-179. DOI:10.1071/IS16023
Mexican red-kneed tarantulas of the genus Brachypelma are regarded as some of the most desirable invertebrate pets, and although bred in captivity, they continue to be smuggled out of the wild in large numbers. Species are often difficult to identify based solely on morphology, therefore prompt and accurate identification is required for adequate protection. Thus, we explored the applicability of using COI-based DNA barcoding as a complementary identification tool. Brachypelma smithi (F. O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1897) and Brachypelma hamorii Tesmongt, Cleton & Verdez, 1997 are redescribed, and their morphological differences defined. Brachypelma annitha is proposed as a new synonym of B. smithi. The current distribution of red-kneed tarantulas shows that the Balsas River basin may act as a geographical barrier. Morphological and molecular evidence are concordant and together provide robust hypotheses for delimiting Mexican red-kneed tarantula species. DNA barcoding of these tarantulas is further shown to be useful for species-level identification and for potentially preventing black market trade in these spiders. As a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) listing does not protect habitat, or control wildlife management or human interactions with organisms, it is important to support environmental conservation activities to provide an alternative income for local communities and to avoid damage to wildlife populations.
Systematics of the Damon variegatus group of African whip spiders (Chelicerata: Amblypygi): Evidence from behaviour, morphology and DNA.
Organisms, Diversity & Evolution 5 (2005): 203–236.
The African whip spider, Damon variegatus, exhibits a broad, discontinuous distribution from the Congo, through western Tanzania and Zimbabwe, to South Africa and Namibia. Variation in size, number of antenniform leg segments, and colouration, taken together with a discontinuous distribution, suggest that allopatric populations of D. variegatus may be reproductively isolated, and more than one species may be involved. Furthermore, many morphological characters of D. variegatus appear to be plesiomorphic if compared to closely related species, suggesting that D. variegatus might be paraphyletic, regardless of whether it is a single panmictic species or a group of partly or entirely reproductively isolated populations. This contribution attempts to determine whether D. variegatus is monophyletic and comprises more than one species, by investigating three sources of evidence: behaviour, morphology and DNA. Mating behaviour is observed and mate-recognition trials conducted between males and females from several populations of D. variegatus and related species of Damon. The morphology of spermatophores obtained during these matings is studied and a matrix of somatic and genitalic characters produced. These morphological data are analysed separately and in combination with DNA sequences from loci of three genes in the nuclear genome (18S rDNA, 28S rDNA and Histone H3) and three genes in the mitochondrial genome (12S rDNA, 16S rDNA and Cytochrome Oxidase I). Neither the comparative behavioural evidence gathered nor the spermatophore morphology conclusively suggest that D. variegatus comprises more than one species. However, the molecular data, analysed separately and in combination with the morphological data, reveal that D. variegatus is monophyletic and that the population of D. variegatus to the west of the Kalahari sand system (Namibia and southern Angola) is specifically distinct from those to the east. This new species is described as Damon sylviae, the diagnosis of D. variegatus s. str. is revised, and a key to the species of the D. variegatus group is provided.