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Metabarcoding allows the genetic analysis of pooled samples of various sources. It is becoming popular in the study of animal diet, especially because it allows the analysis of the composition of feces without the need of handling animals. In this work, we studied the diet of the Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus), a small semi-aquatic mammal endemic to the Iberian Peninsula and the Pyrenees, by sequencing COI minibarcodes from feces using next-generation sequencing techniques. For the identification of assembled sequences, we employed a tree-based identification method that used a reference tree of sequences of freshwater organisms. The comparison of freshly collected fecal samples and older samples showed that fresh samples produced significantly more sequencing reads. They also rendered more operational taxonomical units (OTUs), but not significantly. Our analyses of 41 samples identified 224 OTUs corresponding to species of the reference tree. Ephemeroptera, Diptera excl. Chironomidae, and Chironomidae were the most highly represented groups in terms of reads as well as samples. Other groups of freshwater organisms detected were Plecoptera, Trichoptera, Neuropteroida, Coleoptera, Crustacea, and Annelida. Our results are largely in line with previous morphological and genetic studies on the diet of the Pyrenean desman, but allowed the identification of a higher diversity of OTUs in each sample. Additionally, the bioinformatic pipeline we developed for deep sequencing of fecal samples will enable the quantitative analysis of the diet of this and other species, which can be highly useful to determine their ecological requirements.
A pipeline for metabarcoding and diet analysis from fecal samples developed for a small semi-aquatic mammal
Oliver Hawlitschek, Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Software, Validation, Visualization, Writing - original draft, Writing - review & editing,1,2,* Angel Fernandez-Gonzalez, Data curation, Methodology, Validation, Writing - review & editing,3 Alfonso Balmori-de la Puente, Methodology, Writing - review & editing,1 and Jose Castresana, Conceptualization, Data curation, Funding acquisition, Investigation, Methodology, Project administration, Resources, Software, Supervision, Validation, Writing - review & editing1 Ulrich Melcher, Editor