Blog#2 - What is Project DEEPEND Barcoding ?
The Gulf of Mexico is inhabited by a large and diverse group of crustaceans. As part of the project DEEPEND, we obtained DNA barcodes of deep-sea crustaceans to aid in identification efforts, evolutionary relationship analyses, adult-larval linkages, and new species discoveries. A genetic barcode is a unique section of DNA that can be used as a representative sequence, or “barcode”, for the corresponding species. The barcode sequence must be very well conserved within a species, but different enough between species that we can distinguish between them. Barcoding provides a standardized approach for identifying species when traditional taxonomic methods are not possible, for instance due to cryptic species or damaged specimens.
As part of Project DEEPEND, we obtained DNA barcodes Crustacean specimens that PhD candidates Jorge, Laura, and undergrad intern Charles collected from the Gulf of Mexico during 4 consecutive DEEPEND research cruises from 2015 to 2016, and one cruise in the Florida Straits during the summer of 2016. Processing the specimens involved identifying the specimen through traditional taxonomic techniques and extracting abdominal muscle tissue to extract DNA. We extracted DNA and subsequently utilized polymerase-chain reactions (PCR) to amplify regions of 16S and COI mitochondrial genes, which are the standardized genes for DNA barcoding in Crustacea.
All barcodes will be deposited in open-source databases to serve as a genetic species inventory of deep-sea crustaceans. They will also be used in studies exploring adult-larval linkages, population connectivity, phylogenetics, and cryptic species complexes. This will ultimately contribute to a more accurate monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico’s biota and provide a baseline for future studies in this highly important body of water.