Aquatic oligochaetes are well recognized bioindicators of quality of sediments and water in watercourses and lakes. However, the difficult taxonomic determination based on morphological features compromises their more common use in eco-diagnostic analyses. To overcome this limitation, we investigated molecular barcodes as identification tool for broad range of taxa of aquatic oligochaetes. We report 185 COI and 52 ITS2 rDNA sequences for specimens collected in Switzerland and belonging to the families Naididae, Lumbriculidae, Enchytraeidae and Lumbricidae. Phylogenetic analyses allowed distinguishing 41 lineages separated by more than 10 % divergence in COI sequences. The lineage distinction was confirmed by Automatic Barcode Gap Discovery (ABGD) method and by ITS2 data. Our results showed that morphological identification underestimates the oligochaete diversity. Only 26 of the lineages could be assigned to morphospecies, of which seven were sequenced for the first time. Several cryptic species were detected within common morphospecies. Many juvenile specimens that could not be assigned morphologically have found their home after genetic analysis. Our study showed that COI barcodes performed very well as species identifiers in aquatic oligochaetes. Their easy amplification and good taxonomic resolution might help promoting aquatic oligochaetes as bioindicators for next generation environmental DNA biomonitoring of aquatic ecosystems.
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