Comparing three types of dietary samples for prey {DNA} decay in an insect generalist predator

Abstract The rapidly growing field of molecular diet analysis is becoming increasingly popular among ecologists, especially when investigating methodologically challenging groups, such as invertebrate generalist predators. Prey DNA detection success is known to be affected by multiple factors; however, the type of dietary sample has rarely been considered. Here, we address this knowledge gap by comparing prey DNA detection success from three types of dietary samples. In a controlled feeding experiment, using the carabid beetle Pterostichus melanarius as a model predator, we collected regurgitates, faeces and whole consumers (including their gut contents) at different time points postfeeding. All dietary samples were analysed using multiplex PCR, targeting three different length DNA fragments (128, 332 and 612 bp). Our results show that both the type of dietary sample and the size of the DNA fragment contribute to a significant part of the variation found in the detectability of prey DNA. Specifically, we observed that in both regurgitates and whole consumers, prey DNA was detectable significantly longer for all fragment sizes than for faeces. Based on these observations, we conclude that prey DNA detected from regurgitates and whole consumers DNA extracts are comparable, whereas prey DNA detected from faeces, though still sufficiently reliable for ecological studies, will not be directly comparable to the former. Therefore, regurgitates and faeces constitute a useful, nonlethal source for dietary information that could be applied to field studies in situations when invertebrate predators should not be killed.


Comparing three types of dietary samples for prey {DNA} decay in an insect generalist predator
Publication Type
Journal Article
Year of Publication
Molecular Ecology Resources
Date Published
Submitted on 21 October 2021