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Assessment of termite biodiversity in Kakamega Forest (Kenya) using DNA barcodes

Z.B. Osiemo1, A. Martens1, G.H. Kagezi2, J.P.E.C. Darlington3, M. Kaib4, R. Brandl1
1 Department of Animal Ecology, University of Marburg
2 Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute, Kampala, Uganda
3 Zoology Department, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK
4 Department of Animal Physiology, University of Bayreuth,

P 2.4 in Biodiversit├Ąt, Arten- und Naturschutz

Termites are among the keystone species of tropical ecosystems and contribute to ecosystem processes such as litter decomposition, bioturbation, as well as carbon and nitrogen cycles. The role of termites for soil processes depends strongly on the species composition and their feeding habits. Depending on the land use in Kakamega Forest (along a gradient from primary rain forest to farmlands) the species composition among the termites varies greatly, dominated by termite species feeding on wood in the primary forests and by grass feeding termites in farmlands. Hence, to interpret the role of termites in different land-use habitats the species composition needs to be understood. Termites are morphologically rather uniform, and thus exhibit only few traditional taxonomic characters for species identification. This applies particularly to termite workers, which dominate termite sampling in the field. We here present an approach towards establishing a DNA barcode library for termite species identification and biodiversity assessment using sequences of the mitochondrial COII gene. At least 16 termite species were observed in Kakamega Forest by morphological determination whereas at least 22 species (MOTUs) were found by molecular species delimitation. This highlights the advantage that molecular based species delimitation and reveals some morphological cryptic species. Furthermore, also termite workers can be assigned to their respective phylogenetic clusters.

Letzte Änderung 09.03.2009