Development of a quantitative PCR method for screening ichthyoplankton samples for bigheaded carps

Andrea K. Fritts, Brent C. Knights, James H. Larson, Jon J. Amberg, Christopher M. Merkes, Tariq Tajjioui, Steven E. Butler, Matthew J. Diana, David H. Wahl, Michael J. Weber, John D. Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Monitoring ichthyoplankton is useful for identifying reproductive fronts and spawning locations of bigheaded carps (Hypophthalmichthys spp.). Unfortunately, sorting and identifying ichthyoplankton to monitor for bigheaded carp reproduction is time consuming and expensive. Traditional methods require frequent egg-larvae sampling, sorting of all samples to obtain presumptively identified bigheaded carp, and genetic validation of presumptively identified eggs. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) has the potential to streamline this process by identifying samples that likely do or do not contain a target species. Our objective was to develop a genetic screening tool using qPCR with the duplex assays SCTM4/5 and BHTM1/2 to prioritize samples that have a higher likelihood of containing bigheaded carp eggs or larvae. We used tandem ichthyoplankton samples collected for monitoring bigheaded carps in the Upper Mississippi, Illinois, and St. Croix rivers to evaluate the effectiveness of qPCR as a screening tool. Samples with > 10,000 copies of DNA had 100% occurrence of bigheaded carp eggs or larvae in the traditionally sorted samples, whereas samples with < 10 copies of DNA had 0% occurrence of ichthyoplankton from these invasive species. We used a logistic regression model to calculate the probability of finding bigheaded carp eggs or larvae based upon the number of DNA copies; 406 copies corresponded with a 50% probability of having bigheaded carp ichthyoplankton present in a sample. These data can be used to inform management actions (i.e., control, containment) for these invasive fishes, and this tool could be adapted for monitoring for reproduction of other aquatic invasive species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1143-1153
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 15 2019


  • INHS
  • Bighead carp
  • Larvae
  • Silver carp
  • Hypophthalmichthys
  • Eggs
  • Genetic screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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