Latif, Robabeh; Malek, Masoumeh; Aminjan, Atabak Roohi; Pasantes, Juan José; Briones, Maria J. I.; Csuzdi, Csaba. (2020). Integrative taxonomy of some Iranian peregrine earthworm species using morphology and barcoding (Annelida: Megadrili). Zootaxa. 4877(1): 163-173.
Despite the biological and economic importance of earthworms, the taxonomic status and evolutionary relationships of most lumbricid genera are still under debate. Further complications arise from the recognition that earthworms also show a high cryptic diversity. Past and current field studies of Iranian earthworm fauna have resulted in the identification of a total number of 28 earthworm species. However, many specimens do not fully fit into their original descriptions, making the species assignation very difficult. In this study, we evaluated the genetic diversity using mitochondrial markers as a tool to assess the species occurrence of some problematic species in Iran. Four species with high morphological variation were selected: Aporrectodea caliginosa (Savigny, 1826), Aporrectodea trapezoides (Dugès, 1828), Dendrobaena byblica (Rosa, 1893) and Dendrobaena veneta (Rosa, 1886). Morphological identification was contrasted with the molecular information generated through COI and 16S barcoding and the COI and 16S sequences stored in the Genbank. The results of this first integrative taxonomic analysis revealed that D. veneta consisted of two separated clades and that a number of species assigned to D. byblica showed very close relationships with those belonging to the genus Philomontanus . The lack of taxonomic expertise and identification characters providing a clear and unambiguous identification of earthworms highlights the urgent need of new tools to identify species unequivocally. Therefore, it is concluded that more taxonomical studies are needed to clarify the diagnostic characters and taxonomic status of the species belonging to two genera, Aporrectodea and Dendrobaena (Lumbricidae), in Iran.