Primer biases in the molecular assessment of diet in multiple insectivorous mammals

Browett, SS, Curran, TG, O’Meara, DB, Harrington, AP, Guimaraes Sales, N, Antwis, RE ORCID:, O’Neill, D and McDevitt, A ORCID: 2021, 'Primer biases in the molecular assessment of diet in multiple insectivorous mammals' , Mammalian Biology, 101 (3) , pp. 293-304.

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Our understanding of trophic interactions of small insectivorous mammals has been drastically improved with the advent of DNA metabarcoding. The technique has continued to be optimised over the years, with primer choice repeatedly being a vital factor for dietary inferences. However, the majority of dietary studies examining the effect of primer choice often rely on in silico analyses or comparing between species that occupy an identical niche type. Here, we apply DNA metabarcoding to empirically compare the prey detection capabilities of two widely used primer sets when assessing the diets of a flying (lesser horseshoe bat; Rhinolophus hipposideros) and two ground-dwelling insectivores (greater white-toothed shrew; Crocidura russula and pygmy shrew; Sorex minutus). Although R. hipposideros primarily rely on two prey orders (Lepidoptera and Diptera), the unique taxa detected by each primer shows that a combination of primers may be the best approach to fully describe bat trophic ecology. However, random forest classifier analysis suggests that one highly degenerate primer set detected the majority of both shrews’ diet despite higher levels of host amplification. The wide range of prey consumed by ground-dwelling insectivores can therefore be accurately documented from using a single broad-range primer set, which can decrease cost and labour. The results presented here show that dietary inferences will differ depending on the primer or primer combination used for insectivores occupying different niches (i.e., hunting in the air or ground) and demonstrate the importance of performing empirical pilot studies for novel study systems.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences > Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Mammalian Biology
Publisher: Springer
ISSN: 1616-5047
Related URLs:
Funders: University of Salford (Pathway to Excellence PhD Scholarship), Waterford Institute of Technology, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), University of Salford Internal Research Award, University of Salford Pump Priming, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT)
Depositing User: Dr A McDevitt
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2021 15:09
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2022 06:55

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