Operational taxonomic unit

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In phylogeny an operational taxonomic unit (OTU) is an operational definition of a species or group of species often used when only DNA sequence data is available.[1]

The definition given by NCBI is:[2]

"Taxonomic level of sampling selected by the user to be used in a study, such as individuals, populations, species, genera, or bacterial strains."

Another definition:[3]

"Operational taxonomic unit, species distinction in microbiology. Typically using rDNA and a percent similarity threshold for classifying microbes within the same, or different, OTUs"

The number of OTUs defined may be inflated due to errors in DNA sequencing.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Blaxter, M.; Mann, J.; Chapman, T.; Thomas, F.; Whitton, C.; Floyd, R.; Abebe, E. (Oct 2005). "Defining operational taxonomic units using DNA barcode data.". Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 360 (1462): 1935–43. doi:10.1098/rstb.2005.1725. PMID 16214751. 
  2. ^ "Just the Facts: A Basic Introduction to the Science Underlying NCBI Resources". 
  3. ^ Wooley, John C. "A Primer on Metagenomics". PLOS Computational Biology. Retrieved 14 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Kunin, V.; Engelbrektson, A.; Ochman, H.; Hugenholtz, P. (Jan 2010). "Wrinkles in the rare biosphere: pyrosequencing errors can lead to artificial inflation of diversity estimates.". Environ Microbiol 12 (1): 118–23. doi:10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.02051.x. PMID 19725865.