Species delimitation and DNA barcoding of Atlantic Ensis (Bivalvia, Pharidae)

J. Vierna, J. Cuperus, A. Martinez-lage, J.M. Jansen, A. Perina, H.M.L. van Pelt-Heerschap, A.M. Gonzalez-Tizon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Ensis Schumacher, 1817 razor shells occur at both sides of the Atlantic and along the Pacific coasts of tropical west America, Peru, and Chile. Many of them are marketed in various regions. However, the absence of clear autapomorphies in the shell and the sympatric distributions of some species often prevent a correct identification of specimens. As a consequence, populations cannot be properly managed, and edible species are almost always mislabelled along the production chain. In this work, we studied whether the currently accepted Atlantic Ensis morphospecies are different evolutionary lineages, to clarify their taxonomic status and enable molecular identifications through DNA barcoding. For this, we studied 109 specimens sampled at 27 sites, which were identified as belonging to nine of those morphospecies. We analysed nucleotide variation at four nuclear (18S, 5.8S, ITS1, and ITS2) and two mitochondrial (COI and 16S) regions, although the 18S and 5.8S regions were not informative at the species level and were not further considered. The phylogenetic trees and networks obtained supported all morphospecies as separately evolving lineages. Phylogenetic trees recovered Ensis at each side of the Atlantic as reciprocally monophyletic. Remarkably, we confirm the co-occurrence of the morphologically similar E. minor (Chenu, 1843) and E. siliqua (Linné, 1758) along the NW Iberian coast, a fact that has been often overlooked. In South America, a relevant divergence between E. macha (Molina, 1792) individuals from Chile and Argentina was unveiled and suggests incipient speciation. We also confirm the occurrence of the North American species E. directus (Conrad, 1843) as far south as north-eastern Florida. Among the genomic regions analysed, we suggest COI as the most suitable DNA barcode for Atlantic Ensis. Our results will contribute to the conservation and management of Ensis populations and will enable reliable identifications of the edible species, even in the absence of the valves. The name Ensis coseli Vierna nom. nov. is proposed to replace E. minor Dall, 1899 non (Chenu, 1843).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-171
JournalZoologica Scripta
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • pcr-rflp analysis
  • phylogenetic networks
  • maximum-likelihood
  • mollusca-bivalvia
  • 5s rdna
  • siliqua
  • directus
  • macha
  • population
  • taxonomy


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