Faculté des sciences et de médecine

DNA metabarcoding reveals changes in the contents of carnivorous plants along an elevation gradient

Littlefair, Joanne E. ; Zander, Axel ; Sena Costa, Clara de ; Clare, Elizabeth L.

In: Molecular Ecology, 2019, vol. 28, no. 2, p. 281–292

Resource variation along abiotic gradients influences subsequent trophic interactions and these effects can be transmitted through entire food webs. Interactions along abiotic gradients can provide clues as to how organisms will face changing environmental conditions, such as future range shifts. However, it is challenging to find replicated systems to study these effects. Phytotelmata, such... More

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    Summary
    Resource variation along abiotic gradients influences subsequent trophic interactions and these effects can be transmitted through entire food webs. Interactions along abiotic gradients can provide clues as to how organisms will face changing environmental conditions, such as future range shifts. However, it is challenging to find replicated systems to study these effects. Phytotelmata, such as those found in carnivorous plants, are isolated aquatic communities and thus form a good model for the study of replicated food webs. Due to the degraded nature of the prey, molecular techniques provide a useful tool to study these communities. We studied the pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea L. in allochthonous populations along an elevational gradient in the Alps and Jura. We predicted that invertebrate richness in the contents of the pitcher plants would decrease with increasing elevation, reflecting harsher environmental conditions. Using metabarcoding of the COI gene, we sequenced the invertebrate contents of these pitcher plants. We assigned Molecular Operational Taxonomic Units at ordinal level as well as recovering species‐level data. We found small but significant changes in community composition with elevation. These recovered sequences could belong to invertebrate prey, rotifer inquilines, pollinators and other animals possibly living inside the pitchers. However, we found no directional trend or site‐based differences in MOTU richness with elevational gradient. Use of molecular techniques for dietary or contents analysis is a powerful way to examine numerous degraded samples, although factors such as DNA persistence and the relationship with species presence still have to be completely determined.