Molecular Approach to Identifying Three Closely Related Slug Species of the Genus Deroceras (Gastropoda: Eupulmonata: Agriolimacidae)

Species identification is central to estimating biodiversity. Among terrestrial gastropods, many slug species are especially challenging to be identified, as some of them can only be distinguished by minute morphological differences in their reproductive organs. Therefore there is a need for anatomical section which is often problematic for non-specialists. Some species of slugs belonging to the genus Deroceras are invasive and cause severe agricultural damage. Despite extensive knowledge about their invasiveness, data on the molecular differentiation of these morphologically similar taxa are lacking. In our study we present a molecular approach to identifying three closely related species of the genus DerocerasD. agreste (L., 1758), D. reticulatum (O. F. Müller, 1774) and D. turcicum (Simroth, 1894) (Gastropoda: Eupulmonata: Agriolimacidae)—based on sequences of multiple molecular markers: cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI), cytochrome b (cyt-b), internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS-2) and 28S ribosomal RNA (28S rRNA). We also provide detailed photomicrographs of the penis and penial gland of the three species, as it is the latter that holds the most important phenotypic characters for distinguishing between these taxa. Since identification of the studied species based solely on morphology is considered challenging, contributing a means of molecular differentiation will aid further ecological and biodiversity surveys of these important pests.
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