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Factors affecting detectability of prey DNA in the gut contents of invertebrate predators: a polymerase chain reaction-based method

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This study aimed to determine factors that influence the detection of DNA of Plutella xylostella L. (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae) in the gut contents of arthropod predators when the polymerase chain reaction is used to amplify a diagnostic fragment of the gene coding for cytochrome oxidase subunit I. The effects of temperature, time since feeding, subsequent food intake, sex, weight, and species of predator on prey detectability were studied in the laboratory. Three types of predator were studied: the spider Venator spenceri Hogg. (Araneae: Lycosidae), a bug with sucking mouthparts, Nabis kinbergii (Reuter) (Heteroptera: Nabidae), and a coccinellid with chewing mouthparts, Hippodamia variegata (Goeze) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). In all experiments, the detectability of prey DNA was negatively correlated with time post-feeding. The duration of detectability differed among the predator species. The time calculated for median detection success at 20 °C ranged from 49.6 h in V. spenceri to 36.1 h in N. kinbergii and 17.1 h in H. variegata. In H. variegata, but not in V. spenceri, the rate of detection decreased with increasing temperature. Subsequent food intake did not affect the detectability of DNA of P. xylostella in V. spenceri. In H. variegata, sex and weight of the predator did not influence detection of prey DNA. In addition, this study uncovered potential sources of error caused by detection of prey DNA following secondary cannibalistic and intraguild predation. The results provide essential information for the interpretation of prey detection data from field-collected predators’ gut contents.

Keywords: Coccinellidae; Coleoptera; Heteroptera; Hippodamia variegata; Lepidoptera; Lycosidae; Nabidae; Nabis kinbergii; Plutella xylostella; Plutellidae; Venator spenceri; secondary predation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Discipline of Plant and Food Science, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, Waite Campus, University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia,

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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