Uncovering Trophic Interactions in Arthropod Predators through DNA Shotgun-Sequencing of Gut Contents

Abstract : Characterizing trophic networks is fundamental to many questions in ecology, but this typically requires painstaking efforts, especially to identify the diet of small generalist predators. Several attempts have been devoted to develop suitable molecular tools to determine predatory trophic interactions through gut content analysis, and the challenge has been to achieve simultaneously high taxonomic breadth and resolution. General and practical methods are still needed, preferably independent of PCR amplification of barcodes, to recover a broader range of interactions. Here we applied shotgun-sequencing of the DNA from arthro-pod predator gut contents, extracted from four common coccinellid and dermapteran predators co-occurring in an agroecosystem in Brazil. By matching unassembled reads against six DNA reference databases obtained from public databases and newly assembled mito-genomes, and filtering for high overlap length and identity, we identified prey and other foreign DNA in the predator guts. Good taxonomic breadth and resolution was achieved (93% of prey identified to species or genus), but with low recovery of matching reads. Two to nine trophic interactions were found for these predators, some of which were only inferred by the presence of parasitoids and components of the microbiome known to be associated with aphid prey. Intraguild predation was also found, including among closely related ladybird species. Uncertainty arises from the lack of comprehensive reference databases and reliance on low numbers of matching reads accentuating the risk of false positives. We discuss caveats and some future prospects that could improve the use of direct DNA shotgun-sequencing to characterize arthropod trophic networks.
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Débora Paula, Benjamin Linard, Alex Crampton-Platt, Amrita Srivathsan, Martijn Timmermans, et al.. Uncovering Trophic Interactions in Arthropod Predators through DNA Shotgun-Sequencing of Gut Contents. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2016, 11 (9), pp.e0161841. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0161841⟩. ⟨hal-01636900⟩

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