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Discovering hidden biodiversity: the use of complementary monitoring of fish diet based on DNA barcoding in freshwater ecosystems

Jo, HyunbinVentura, MarcVidal, NicolasGim, Jeong-SooBuchaca, TeresaBarmuta, L.A.Jeppesen, ErikJoo, Gea-Jae. Ecology and Evolution : doi: 10.1002/ece3.1825 (2016)  DIGITAL.CSIC

Ecological monitoring contributes to the understanding of complex ecosystem functions. The diets of fish reflect the surrounding environment and habitats and may, therefore, act as useful integrating indicators of environmental status. It is, however, often difficult to visually identify items in gut contents to species level due to digestion of soft-bodied prey beyond visual recognition, but new tools rendering this possible are now becoming available. We used a molecular approach to determine the species identities of consumed diet items of an introduced generalist feeder, brown trout (Salmo trutta), in 10 Tasmanian lakes and compared the results with those obtained from visual quantification of stomach contents. We obtained 44 unique taxa (OTUs) belonging to five phyla, including seven classes, using the barcode of life approach from cytochrome oxidase I (COI). Compared with visual quantification, DNA analysis showed greater accuracy, yielding a 1.4-fold higher number of OTUs. Rarefaction curve analysis showed saturation of visually inspected taxa, while the curves from the DNA barcode did not saturate. The OTUs with the highest proportions of haplotypes were the families of terrestrial insects Formicidae, Chrysomelidae, and Torbidae and the freshwater Chironomidae. Haplotype occurrence per lake was negatively correlated with lake depth and transparency. Nearly all haplotypes were only found in one fish gut from a single lake. Our results indicate that DNA barcoding of fish diets is a useful and complementary method for discovering hidden biodiversity.