DNA metabarcoding is a powerful tool for assessing the diets of wild animals, but there is no clear consensus on which proposed plant barcoding marker is most suitable for dietary analysis. This study compares two DNA plant barcoding markers that are commonly used for dietary analyses from degraded DNA, rbcL and trnL, to detailed dietary observations of wild white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus). Observational dietary data and fecal samples (n = 170) were collected for one year from a group of individually recognizable monkeys at La Suerte Biological Field Station, Costa Rica. DNA was extracted and portions of the rbcL and trnL chloroplast were amplified and sequenced on the Illumina MiSeq platform. Sequences were analyzed using obitools. Of the two barcoding markers tested, trnL yielded greater numbers of sequences with equal sequencing effort, higher resolution taxonomic identifications (albeit with a larger reference database), and identified a greater number of families also found in the observed diet. There was no relationship between observed capuchin feeding behavior and dietary composition based on either sequence occurrence or relative abundance of sequences using rbcL as a marker. However, dietary composition based on the relative abundance of trnL sequences was significantly positively associated with the observed percentage of feeding and foraging time capuchins’ spent on each plant species. Additionally, in 35% of cases, the relative abundance of trnL sequences assigned to particular plant families in fecal samples was highly positively correlated with time spent consuming plants from those same families. Our results indicate that trnL is a more robust DNA metabarcoding marker for plant dietary analysis and may potentially be used to quantitatively assess differences in diet within or between species.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)