Catfishes are globally demanded as human food, angling sport and aquariums keeping thus are highly exploited all over the world. North-East India possess high abundance of catfishes and are equally exploited through decades. The strategies for conservation necessitate understanding the actual species composition, which is hampered due to sporadic descriptions of the species through traditional taxonomy. Therefore, actual catfish diversity in this region is important to be studied through the combined approach of morphological and molecular technique of DNA barcoding.
Altogether 75 native catfish specimens were collected from across the North-East India and their morphological features were compared with the taxonomic keys. The detailed taxonomic study identified 25 species belonging to 17 genera and 9 families. The cytochrome oxidase c subunit-I gene fragment were then sequenced from the samples in accordance with the standard DNA barcoding protocols. The sequences were compared with public databases, viz., GenBank and BOLD. Sequences developed in the current study and from databases of the same and related taxa were analyzed to calculate the congeneric and conspecific genetic divergences using Kimura 2-parameter distance model, and a Neighbor Joining tree was created using software MEGA5.1. The DNA barcoding approach delineated 21 distinct species showing 4.33 folds of difference between the nearest congeners. Four species, viz.,
The efficiency of DNA barcoding was reaffirmed from its success by easily identifying the major share (84%) of the studied catfish into 21 distinct species. The study contributed 27 new barcodes for 7 species and confirmed the range expansion of 2 important species in NE India.