Although mammals are a well-studied group of animals, making accurate field identification of small mammals is still complex because of morphological variation across developmental stages, color variation of pelages, and often damaged osteological and dental characteristics. In 2008, small mammals were collected for an epidemiological study of a spotted fever outbreak in Hainan, China. Ten species of small mammals were identified by morphological characters in the field, most using pelage color characters only. The study is extended here, in order to assess whether DNA barcoding would be suitable as an identification tool in these small mammals. Barcode clusters showed some incongruence with morphospecies, especially for some species of Rattus and Niviventer, so molecular delineation was carried out with an expanded dataset of combined cytochrome b (Cyt-b) and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) sequences. COI sequences were successfully amplified from 83% of collected mammals, but failed in all specimens of Suncus murinus, which were thus excluded in DNA barcoding analysis. Of note, ten molecular taxonomic units were found from samples of nine morphologically identified species. Accordingly, 11 species of small mammals were present in the investigated areas, including four Rattus species, three Niviventer species, Callosciurus erythraeus, Neohylomys hainanensis, Tupaia belangeri, and Suncus murinus. Based on the results of the phylogenetic and molecular delineation analyses, the systematic status of some rodent species should be redefined. R. rattus hainanicus and R. rattus sladeni are synonyms of R. andamanensis. R. losea from China and Southeast Asia comprises two independent species: R. losea and R. sakeratensis. Finally, the taxonomic status of three putative species of Niviventer should be further confirmed according to morphological, molecular and ecological characters. © 2012 Lu et al.
Lu, L., Chesters, D., Zhang, W., Li, G., Ma, Y., Ma, H., … Liu, Q. (2012). Small Mammal Investigation in Spotted Fever Focus with DNA-Barcoding and Taxonomic Implications on Rodents Species from Hainan of China. PLoS ONE, 7(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0043479