Species are central for understanding the diversity of life, yet there remains considerable uncertainty in how to define them. Through work on bdelloid rotifers, insects, bacteria and plants, we have developed new methods for identifying independently evolving units of diversity from broad-scale genetic data – the kind of data being collected by DNA barcoding projects.  Our main interest is to identify the processes causing independent evolution, especially reproductive isolation and divergent selection, and to determine whether they do indeed act to generate simple units (species) or whether more complicated models of diversity are required.

Our methods have been used to delimit species and estimate diversity from DNA barcodes, as in this inventory of a) mayflies, b) termites, c) butterflies, d) dung beetles and e) diving beetles from Madagascar (Monaghan et al. 2009)


Fujisawa T, Barraclough TG. 2013. Delimiting Species Using Single-locus Data and the Generalized Mixed Yule Coalescent (GMYC) Approach: A Revised Method and Evaluation on Simulated Datasets. Syst Biol. 62: 707-724.

Tang, C.Q., Leasi, F., Obertegger, U., Kieneke, A., Barraclough, T.G., and Fontaneto, D. 2012. The widely used small subunit 18S rDNA molecule greatly underestimates true diversity in biodiversity surveys of the meiofauna. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 109:16208-12

Barraclough T.G. 2010. Evolving entities: towards a unified framework for understanding diversity at the species and higher levels. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B. 365: 1801-1813.

Monaghan, M.T., Wild, R., Elliot, M., Fujisawa, T., Balke, M., Inward, D.J., Lees, D.C., Ranaivosolo, R., Eggleton, P., Barraclough, T.G., and Vogler, A.P. 2009. Accelerated species inventory on Madagascar using coalescent-based models of species delineation. Systematic Biology 58: 298 – 311

Barraclough, T.G., Hughes, M., Ashford-Hodges, N., and Fujisawa, T. 2009. Inferring evolutionarily significant units of bacterial diversity from broad environmental surveys of single-locus data. Biology Letters 5: 425-428.