Friday, June 1, 2018

Weekend reads

This week a hopefully eclectic collection of reads. I  also hope I posted something for everyone.

Microeukaryotic plankton (0.2-200 μm) are critical components of aquatic ecosystems and key players in global ecological processes. High-throughput sequencing is currently revolutionizing their study on an unprecedented scale. However, it is currently unclear whether we can accurately, effectively and quantitatively depict the microeukaryotic plankton communities using traditional size-fractionated filtering combined with molecular methods. To address this, we analysed the eukaryotic plankton communities both with, and without, prefiltering with a 200 μm pore-size sieve -by using SSU rDNA-based high-throughput sequencing on 16 samples with three replicates in each sample from two subtropical reservoirs sampled from January to October in 2013. We found that ~25% reads were classified as metazoan in both size groups. The species richness, alpha and beta diversity of plankton community and relative abundance of reads in 99.2% eukaryotic OTUs showed no significant changes after prefiltering with a 200 μm pore-size sieve. We further found that both >0.2 μm and 0.2-200 μm eukaryotic plankton communities, especially the abundant plankton subcommunities, exhibited very similar, and synchronous, spatiotemporal patterns and processes associated with almost identical environmental drivers. The lack of an effect on community structure from prefiltering suggests that environmental DNA from larger metazoa is introduced into the smaller size class. Therefore, size-fractionated filtering with 200 μm is insufficient to discriminate between the eukaryotic plankton size groups in metabarcoding approaches. Our results also highlight the importance of sequencing depth, and strict quality filtering of reads, when designing studies to characterize microeukaryotic plankton communities.

Understanding the geographical distribution and community composition of species is crucial to monitor species persistence and define effective conservation strategies. Environmental DNA (eDNA) has emerged as a powerful noninvasive tool for species detection. However, most eDNA survey methods have been developed and applied in temperate zones. We tested the feasibility of using eDNA to survey anurans in tropical streams in the Brazilian Atlantic forest and compared the results with short-term visual and audio surveys. We detected all nine species known to inhabit our focal streams with one single visit for eDNA sampling. We found a higher proportion of sequence reads and larger number of positive PCR replicates for more common species and for those with life cycles closely associated with the streams, factors that may contribute to increased release of DNA in the water. However, less common species were also detected in eDNA samples, demonstrating the detection power of this method. Filtering larger volumes of water resulted in a higher probability of detection. Our data also show it is important to sample multiple sites along streams, particularly for detection of target species with lower population densities. For the three focal species in our study, the eDNA metabarcoding method had a greater capacity of detection per sampling event than our rapid field surveys, and thus, has the potential to circumvent some of the challenges associated with traditional approaches. Our results underscore the utility of eDNA metabarcoding as an efficient method to survey anuran species in tropical streams of the highly biodiverse Brazilian Atlantic forest.

Next-generation deep amplicon sequencing, or metabarcoding, has revolutionized the study of microbial communities in humans, animals and the environment. However, such approaches have yet to be applied to parasitic helminth communities. We recently described the first example of such a method - nemabiome sequencing - based on deep-amplicon sequencing of internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS-2) rDNA, and validated its ability to quantitatively assess the species composition of cattle gastro-intestinal nematode (GIN) communities. Here, we present the first application of this approach to explore GIN species diversity and the impact of anthelmintic drug treatments. First, we investigated GIN species diversity in cow-calf beef cattle herds in several different regions, using coproculture derived L3s. A screen of 50 Canadian beef herds revealed parasite species diversity to be low overall. The majority of parasite communities were comprised of just two species; Ostertagia ostertagi and Cooperia oncophora. Cooperia punctata was present at much lower levels overall, but nevertheless comprised a substantive part of the parasite community of several herds in eastern Canada. In contrast, nemabiome sequencing revealed higher GIN species diversity in beef calves sampled from central/south-eastern USA and Sao Paulo State, Brazil. In these regions C. punctata predominated in most herds with Haemonchus placei predominating in a few cases. Ostertagia ostertagi and C. oncophora were relatively minor species in these regions in contrast to the Canadian herds. We also examined the impact of routine macrocyclic lactone pour-on treatments on GIN communities in the Canadian beef herds. Low treatment effectiveness was observed in many cases, and nemabiome sequencing revealed an overall increase in the proportion of Cooperia spp. relative to O. ostertagi post-treatment. This work demonstrates the power of nemabiome metabarcoding to provide a detailed picture of GIN parasite community structure in large sample sets and illustrates its potential use in research, diagnostics and surveillance.

DNA metabarcoding is an increasingly popular method to characterize and quantify biodiversity in environmental samples. Metabarcoding approaches simultaneously amplify a short, variable genomic region, or "barcode," from a broad taxonomic group via the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), using universal primers that anneal to flanking conserved regions. Results of these experiments are reported as occurrence data, which provide a list of taxa amplified from the sample, or relative abundance data, which measure the relative contribution of each taxon to the overall composition of amplified product. The accuracy of both occurrence and relative abundance estimates can be affected by a variety of biological and technical biases. For example, taxa with larger biomass may be better represented in environmental samples than those with smaller biomass. Here, we explore how polymerase choice, a potential source of technical bias, might influence results in metabarcoding experiments. We compared potential biases of six commercially available polymerases using a combination of mixtures of amplifiable synthetic sequences and real sedimentary DNA extracts. We find that polymerase choice can affect both occurrence and relative abundance estimates and that the main source of this bias appears to be polymerase preference for sequences with specific GC contents. We further recommend an experimental approach for metabarcoding based on results of our synthetic experiments.

Molecular gut-content analysis has revolutionized the study of food webs and feeding interactions, allowing the detection of prey DNA within the gut of many organisms. However, successful prey detection is a challenging procedure in which many factors affect every step, starting from the DNA extraction process. Spiders are liquid feeders with branched gut diverticula extending into their legs and throughout the prosoma, thus digestion takes places in different parts of the body and simple gut dissection is not possible. In this study, we investigated differences in prey detectability in DNA extracts from different parts of the spider´s body: legs, prosoma and opisthosoma, using prey-specific PCR and metabarcoding approaches. We performed feeding trials with the woodlouse hunter spider Dysdera verneaui Simon, 1883 (Dysderidae) to estimate the time at which prey DNA is detectable within the predator after feeding. Although we found that all parts of the spider body are suitable for gut-content analysis when using prey-specific PCR approach, results based on metabarcoding suggested the opisthosoma is optimal for detection of predation in spiders because it contained the highest concentration of prey DNA for longer post feeding periods. Other spiders may show different results compared to D. verneaui, but given similarities in the physiology and digestion in different families, it is reasonable to assume this to be common across species and this approach having broad utility across spiders.

Tropical animals and plants are known to have high alpha diversity within forests, but low beta diversity between forests. By contrast, it is unknown if microbes inhabiting the same ecosystems exhibit similar biogeographic patterns. To evaluate the biogeographies of tropical protists, we used metabarcoding data of species sampled in the soils of three lowland Neotropical rainforests. Taxa-area and distance-decay relationships for three of the dominant protist taxa and their subtaxa were estimated at both the OTU- and phylogenetic-levels, with presence-absence and abundance based measures. These estimates were compared to null models. High local alpha and low regional beta diversity patterns were consistently found for both the parasitic Apicomplexa and the largely free-living Cercozoa and Ciliophora. Similar to animals and plants, the protists showed spatial structures between forests at the OTU- and phylogenetic-levels, and only at the phylogenetic level within forests. These results suggest that the biogeographies of macro- and micro-organismal eukaryotes in lowland Neotropical rainforests are partially structured by the same general processes. However, and unlike the animals and plants, the protist OTUs did not exhibit spatial structures within forests, which hinders our ability to estimate local and regional diversity of protists in tropical forests.

Maximizing the delivery of key ecosystem services such as biological control through the management of natural enemy communities is one of the major challenges for modern agriculture. The main obstacle lies in our yet limited capacity of identifying the factors that drive the dynamics of trophic interactions within multi-species assemblages. Invertebrate generalist predators like carabid beetles are known for their dynamic feeding behaviour. Yet, at what extent different carabid species contribute to the regulation of animal and plant pests within agroecosystems is currently unknown. Here, we developed a DNA metabarcoding approach for characterizing the full diet spectrum of a community of fourteen very common carabid species inhabiting an intensively managed Western-European agroecosystem. We then investigated how diet and biological control potential within the carabid community varies with the sampling field location and the crop type (wheat vs oilseed rape). DNA metabarcoding diet analysis allowed to detect a wide variety of animal and plant taxa from carabid gut contents thus confirming their generalist feeding behaviour. The most common prey categories detected were arachnids, insects, earthworms and several plant families potentially including many weed species. Our results also show that the field location and the crop type are much stronger determinants then the species regarding carabid dietary choice: significantly more trophic links involving dipteran prey were observed in wheat, whereas more collembolan and plant prey was consumed in oilseed rape by the same carabid community. We speculate that structural differences in the habitats provided by these two crop types drive differences in resource availability cascading up the trophic chain, and we assume that specific carabid taxa could hardly be used to infer levels of ecosystem services (biological control) or disservices (e.g. intraguild predation). However, as this is the first study to report the use of DNA metabarcoding diet analysis in predatory carabid beetles we urge caution over the interpretation of our results. For instance, overall detection rates were rather low (31% of the individuals analysed tested positive for at least one prey category) most likely due to the overwhelming amplification of the carabid host DNA. Therefore, we acknowledge that more studies are required in order to confirm our observations and conclude with few recommendations for further improvements of the community-level DNA metabarcoding analysis of carabid diet.

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