Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The diversity and biogeography of the Coleoptera of Churchill: insights from DNA barcoding

Thomas S Woodcock1*, Elizabeth E Boyle2, Robert E Roughley3, Peter G Kevan1, Renee N Labbee2, Andrew B T Smith4, Henri Goulet5, Dirk Steinke2 and Sarah J Adamowicz2*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Environmental Science, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd. E., Guelph, ON, Canada

2 Biodiversity Institute of Ontario & Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd. E., Guelph, ON, Canada

3 Department of Entomology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

4 Canadian Museum of Nature, P.O. Box 3443, Station D, Ottawa, ON, Canada

5 Canadian National Collection, 960 Carling Ave., Ottawa, ON, Canada

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BMC Ecology 2013, 13:40  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-13-40

Published: 29 October 2013



Coleoptera is the most diverse order of insects (>300,000 described species), but its richness diminishes at increasing latitudes (e.g., ca. 7400 species recorded in Canada), particularly of phytophagous and detritivorous species. However, incomplete sampling of northern habitats and a lack of taxonomic study of some families limits our understanding of biodiversity patterns in the Coleoptera. We conducted an intensive biodiversity survey from 2006–2010 at Churchill, Manitoba, Canada in order to quantify beetle species diversity in this model region, and to prepare a barcode library of beetles for sub-arctic biodiversity and ecological research. We employed DNA barcoding to provide estimates of provisional species diversity, including for families currently lacking taxonomic expertise, and to examine the guild structure, habitat distribution, and biogeography of beetles in the Churchill region.


We obtained DNA barcodes from 3203 specimens representing 302 species or provisional species (the latter quantitatively defined on the basis of Molecular Operational Taxonomic Units, MOTUs) in 31 families of Coleoptera. Of the 184 taxa identified to the level of a Linnaean species name, 170 (92.4%) corresponded to a single MOTU, four (2.2%) represented closely related sibling species pairs within a single MOTU, and ten (5.4%) were divided into two or more MOTUs suggestive of cryptic species. The most diverse families were the Dytiscidae (63 spp.), Staphylinidae (54 spp.), and Carabidae (52 spp.), although the accumulation curve for Staphylinidae suggests that considerable additional diversity remains to be sampled in this family. Most of the species present are predatory, with phytophagous, mycophagous, and saprophagous guilds being represented by fewer species. Most named species of Carabidae and Dytiscidae showed a significant bias toward open habitats (wet or dry). Forest habitats, particularly dry boreal forest, although limited in extent in the region, were undersampled.


We present an updated species list for this region as well as a species-level DNA barcode reference library. This resource will facilitate future work, such as biomonitoring and the study of the ecology and distribution of larvae.

Barcode library; Barcoding biotas; Boreal-arctic transition; COI; Cytochrome c oxidase subunit I; DNA barcoding; Freshwater; Terrestrial; Subarctic forest