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Evaluation of temperature gradient gel electrophoresis for the analysis of prey DNA within the guts of invertebrate predators

Harper, Georgina L., Sheppard, Samuel Keir, Harwood, James D., Read, Daniel Steven, Glen, D. M., Bruford, Michael William and Symondson, William Oliver Christian 2006. Evaluation of temperature gradient gel electrophoresis for the analysis of prey DNA within the guts of invertebrate predators. Bulletin of Entomological Research 96 (3) , pp. 295-304. 10.1079/BER2006426

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The utility of temperature gradient gel electrophoresis (TGGE) as a means of analysing the gut contents of predators was evaluated. Generalist predators consume multiple prey species and a species-specific primer approach may not always be a practical means of analysing predator responses to prey diversity in complex and biodiverse ecosystems. General invertebrate primers were used to amplify the gut contents of predators, generating banding patterns that identified component prey remains. There was no evidence of dominance of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) by predator DNA. When applied to field samples of the carabid predator Pterostichus melanarius (Illiger) nine banding patterns were detected, including one for aphids. To further distinguish between species, group-specific primers were designed to separate species of earthworm and aphid. TGGE of the earthworm PCR products generated banding patterns that varied with haplotype in some species. Aphid and earthworm DNA could be detected in the guts of carabids for up to 24 h using TGGE. In P. melanarius, with low numbers of prey per insect gut (mean<3), interpretation of banding patterns proved to be tractable. Potential problems of interpretation of TGGE gels caused by multiple prey bands, cryptic bands, haplotype variation, taxonomic uncertainties (especially with regard to earthworms), secondary predation, scavenging and presence of parasites and parasitoids in the prey or the predators, are discussed. The results suggest that PCR, using combinations of general invertebrate and group-specific primers followed by TGGE, provides a potentially useful approach to the analysis of multiple uncharacterized prey in predators.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Uncontrolled Keywords: aphid; carabid beetle; earthworm; gut content analysis; predator–prey interactions; Pterostichus melanarius
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0007-4853
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2020 15:29

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