Molecular analysis of predator scats reveals role of salps in temperate inshore food webs

Cavallo, Catherine, Chiaradia, André, Deagle, Bruce E, McInnes, Julie C, Sánchez, Sonia, Hays, Graeme C and Reina, Richard D 2018, Molecular analysis of predator scats reveals role of salps in temperate inshore food webs, Frontiers in marine science, vol. 5, pp. 1-14, doi: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00381.

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Title Molecular analysis of predator scats reveals role of salps in temperate inshore food webs
Author(s) Cavallo, Catherine
Chiaradia, André
Deagle, Bruce E
McInnes, Julie C
Sánchez, Sonia
Hays, Graeme CORCID iD for Hays, Graeme C
Reina, Richard D
Journal name Frontiers in marine science
Volume number 5
Article ID 381
Start page 1
End page 14
Total pages 14
Publisher Frontiers Media
Place of publication Lausanne, Switzerland
Publication date 2018-10
ISSN 2296-7745
Keyword(s) next-generation sequencing
foraging ecology
DNA barcoding
science & technology
life sciences & biomedicine
environmental sciences
marine & freshwater biology
environmental sciences & ecology
Summary High precision, high coverage DNA-based diet analysis tools allow great insight into the food web interactions of cryptic taxa. We used DNA fecal-metabarcoding to look for unrecorded taxa within the diet of a generalist central-placed predator, the little penguin Eudyptula minor. We examined 208 scats from 106 breeding pairs throughout August-February in a large colony at Phillip Island, Australia. While we confirmed a largely piscivorous diet, we also recovered DNA sequences from gelatinous and crustaceous plankton groups that have not previously been detected in the little penguin diet using other diet analysis methods. Gelatinous plankton, including salps, appendicularians, scyphozoans, and hydrozoans were present in 76% of samples and represented 25% of all sequences. DNA recovered from minute copepods and appendicularians may indicate links between trophic levels through secondary predation. Percentage frequency of occurrence (%FOO) demonstrated that little penguin diet composition changed over months and stages (incubation, guard, and post-guard) of the breeding season (month: χ2 = 201.91, df = NA, p < 0.01; stage: χ2 = 33.221, df = NA, p = 0.015). Relative read abundance (RRA) uncovered variations in the relative abundance of taxa in the diet over months and stages (month: F = 53.18, df = 59, p < 0.001; stage: F = 66.56, df = 29, p < 0.001). The diet became progressively fish-focused over months of the season and stages, while salps were only present in 4 out of 6 months, with a peak in September. Based on their prevalence in this dataset, in this year of very high breeding success (2.15 chicks per pair), salps may constitute a food source for this largely piscivorous generalist. Our work highlights how DNA metabarcoding can improve our understanding of the trophic role of gelatinous plankton and other cryptic taxa.
Language eng
DOI 10.3389/fmars.2018.00381
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2018, Cavallo, Chiaradia, Deagle, McInnes, Sánchez, Hays and Reina.
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