ITS2 sequences as barcodes for identifying and analyzing spider mites (Acari: Tetranychidae)

Tselila Ben-David, Sarah Melamed, Uri Gerson, Shai Morin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


The use of DNA barcodes, short DNA sequences from a standardized region of the genome, has recently been proposed as a tool to facilitate species identification and discovery. Here we show that second internal transcribed spacer of nuclear ribosomal DNA (rDNA-ITS2) barcodes effectively discriminate among 16 species of spider mites (Acari: Tetranychidae) from Israel. The barcode sequences of each species were unambiguously distinguishable from all other species and formed distinct, nonoverlapping monophyletic groups in the maximum-parsimony tree. Sequence divergences were generally much greater between species than within them. Using a 0.02 (2%) threshold for species diagnosis in our data set, 14 out of 16 species recognized by morphological criteria would be accurately identified. The only exceptions involved the low divergence, 0.011-0.015 (1.1-1.5%), between Tetranychus urticae and Tetranychus turkestani, where speciation may have occurred only recently. Still, these species had fixed alternative rDNA-ITS2 variants, with five diagnostic nucleotide substitutions. As a result, we tentatively conclude that rDNA-ITS2 sequence barcodes may serve as an effective tool for the identification of spider mite species and can be applicable as a diagnostic tool for quarantine and other pest management activities and decision-making. We predict that our work, together with similar efforts, will provide in the future the platform for a uniform, accurate, practical and easy-to-use method of spider mite species identification.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)169-181
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental and Applied Acarology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements We thank Iris Karunker for DNA sequence interpretation and Tamar Sofer from the Hebrew University cartographic laboratory for map production. This work was partially supported by research grant from the State of Israel, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Plant Protection and Inspection Services (PPIS).


  • Barcoding
  • ITS2
  • Identification of species
  • Molecular phylogeny
  • Spider-mites
  • Taxonomy
  • Tetranychidae


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