A tale of two fluids: does storing specimens together in liquid preservative cause DNA cross-contamination in molecular gut-content studies?

Kacie J. Athey, Eric G. Chapman, James D. Harwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The study of food webs and trophic interactions increasingly relies on PCR-based molecular gut-content analysis. However, this technique may be prone to error from contamination of minute quantities of DNA; i.e., simply storing specimens together in a liquid medium may lead to cross-contamination. In this study, we used PCR to determine the contamination rate when (1) specimens were stored together in 95% ethanol for various time periods, and (2) predators fall into ethylene glycol-filled pitfall traps where the dying predator may inadvertently consume prey DNA-contaminated liquid. We designed experiments and PCR primers to quantify the risk of contamination for both situations and found no contamination by storing specimens together in 95% ethanol. Furthermore, zero predators contained prey DNA in their gut contents from imbibing prey DNA-contaminated ethylene glycol. These results support the use of mass sampling techniques, like wet pitfall traps, for molecular gut-content analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-343
Number of pages6
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Volume163
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Campoletis spec.
  • Carabidae
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • ethanol
  • ethylene glycol
  • food-web connections
  • generalist predators
  • Malaise trap
  • parasitoid wasps
  • Philomycidae
  • pitfall trap
  • slugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science

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