Biodiversity assessment: State-of-the-art techniques in phylogenomics and species identification

P. Roxanne Steele, J. Chris Pires

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Premise of the study: Biodiversity assessment is the first step in protecting the complete range of morphological and genetic diversity of species on Earth, and in reaching the goals of conservation biology. Assessment begins with identifying organisms that make up biological communities and understanding evolutionary histories. Scientific advancements in molecular sequencing can help clarify and provide support for identifications. Massively parallel DNA sequencing technologies are being used to sequence complete genomes of model organisms; however, this resource has not been fully used for species identifications. Animal researchers commonly use one mitochondrial region, and groups of plant scientists have proposed numerous combinations of two or three chloroplast markers as genomic identifiers. Yet, nearly as many studies have reported that the proposed regions are uninformative in some plant groups and at various taxonomic levels. Methods: We propose a combination of whole (or nearly whole) chloroplast genomes, mitochondrial genes, and nuclear repeat regions for both species identifications and phylogenetic analyses, obtained from a simple total DNA extraction and one run on massively parallel DNA sequencing machines. Key results: We have recovered both coding and noncoding sequences from multiple genetic sources, providing genomic information for comparisons within and between multiple taxonomic levels. Conclusions: In combination with morphological and other data, this abundance of genomic information will have a broad range of applications, including not only helping conservation biologists understand ecosystem biodiversity, but also understanding the evolutionary histories of organisms, mending damaged landscapes, and investigating interactions of plants with pollinators and pests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-425
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Citizen science
  • DNA barcoding
  • Genome
  • Genome survey sequencing
  • Handheld field device
  • Mitochondria
  • Nextgeneration sequencing
  • Nuclear ribosomal DNA
  • Plastome
  • Whole genome shotgun

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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