ZooKeys (Dec 2022)

To be or not to be… Integrative taxonomy and species delimitation in the daddy long-legs spiders of the genus Physocyclus (Araneae, Pholcidae) using DNA barcoding and morphology

  • Samuel Nolasco,
  • Alejandro Valdez-Mondragón

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 1135
pp. 93 – 118


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Integrative taxonomy is crucial for discovery, recognition, and species delimitation, especially in underestimated species complex or cryptic species, by incorporating different sources of evidence to construct rigorous species hypotheses. The spider genus Physocyclus Simon, 1893 (Pholcidae, Arteminae) is composed of 37 species, mainly from North America. In this study, traditional morphology was compared with three DNA barcoding markers regarding their utility in species delimitation within the genus: 1) Cytochrome c Oxidase subunit 1 (CO1), 2) Internal Transcribed Spacer 2 (ITS2), and 3) Ribosomal large subunit (28S). The molecular species delimitation analyses were carried out using four methods under the corrected p-distances Neighbor-Joining (NJ) criteria: 1) Automatic Barcode Gap Discovery (ABGD), 2) Assemble Species by Automatic Partitioning (ASAP), 3) General Mixed Yule Coalescent model (GMYC), and 4) Bayesian Poisson Tree Processes (bPTP). The analyses incorporated 75 terminals from 22 putative species of Physocyclus. The average intraspecific genetic distance (p-distance) was found to be < 2%, whereas the average interspecific genetic distance was 20.6%. The ABGD, ASAP, and GMYC methods were the most congruent, delimiting 26 or 27 species, while the bPTP method delimited 33 species. The use of traditional morphology for species delimitation was congruent with most molecular methods, with the male palp, male chelicerae, and female genitalia shown to be robust characters that support species-level identification. The barcoding with CO1 and 28S had better resolution for species delimitation in comparison with ITS2. The concatenated matrix and traditional morphology were found to be more robust and informative for species delimitation within Physocyclus.