Data from: Molecular prey identification in Central European piscivores
Thalinger, Bettina et al. (2015), Data from: Molecular prey identification in Central European piscivores, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.1vf74
Diet analysis is an important aspect when investigating the ecology of fish-eating animals and essential for assessing their functional role in food webs across aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. The identification of fish remains in dietary samples, however, can be time-consuming and unsatisfying using conventional morphological analysis of prey remains. Here, we present a two-step multiplex PCR system, comprised of six assays, allowing for rapid, sensitive and specific detection of fish DNA in dietary samples. This approach encompasses 78 fish and lamprey species native to Central European freshwaters and enables the identification of 31 species, six genera, two families, two orders and two fish family clusters. All targeted taxa were successfully amplified from 25 template molecules, and each assay was specific when tested against a wide range of invertebrates and vertebrates inhabiting aquatic environments. The applicability of the multiplex PCR system was evaluated in a feeding trial, wherein it outperformed morphological prey analysis regarding species-specific prey identification in faeces of Eurasian otters. Additionally, a wide spectrum of fish species was detected in field-collected faecal samples and regurgitated pellets of Common Kingfishers and Great Cormorants, demonstrating the broad applicability of the approach. In conclusion, this multiplex PCR system provides an efficient, easy to use and cost-effective tool for assessing the trophic ecology of piscivores in Central Europe. Furthermore, the multiplex PCRs and the primers described therein will be applicable wherever DNA of the targeted fish species needs to be detected at high sensitivity and specificity.