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A real-time PCR assay to detect predation by spiny dogfish on Atlantic cod in the western North Atlantic Ocean.


Pitchford, Steven; Smith, Brian E.; McBride, Richard (2021), A real-time PCR assay to detect predation by spiny dogfish on Atlantic cod in the western North Atlantic Ocean., Dryad, Dataset,


Conventional observations show spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthius Linnaeus) rarely eat Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua Linnaeus; 0.02% of stomachs) in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Critics express concern that digestion may limit species-level prey identification, and with recovery from overfishing, dogfish populations may be suppressing cod by competition or predation. This study applied a real-time PCR TaqMan assay to identify cod in dogfish stomachs collected by cooperating fishing boats during normal trawling operations (May 2014 – May 2015; Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank). Conventional methods observed 51 different prey taxa and nearly 1600 individual prey items, but no cod were observed. Cod DNA was detected in 31 (10.5%) of the dogfish stomachs, with a higher percentage of these from the homogenate of amorphous, well-digested prey and stomach fluids (20 stomachs or 65%) than from discrete animal tissues (11 stomachs or 35%). Re-examination of photographs of these 11 tissue samples revealed one whole, partially-digested fish that could be recognized in hindsight as cod. Cod DNA was observed in dogfish stomachs year round: in January (1 of 1 trip), February (1 of 1), May (1 of 3), June (0 of 1), July (3 of 4), August (1 of 2), and October (3 of 3). Although these data suggest higher interaction rates between dogfish and cod than previously observed, addressing the population consequences of this predator-prey relationship requires a robust sampling design, estimates of digestion rates by dogfish to account for complete degradation of DNA sequences, and consideration for dogfish scavenging during fishing operations.


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