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In silico and empirical evaluation of twelve metabarcoding primer sets for insectivorous diet analyses

Cite this dataset

Tournayre, Orianne et al. (2020). In silico and empirical evaluation of twelve metabarcoding primer sets for insectivorous diet analyses [Dataset]. Dryad.


During the most recent decade, environmental DNA metabarcoding approaches have been both developed and improved to minimize the biological and technical biases in these protocols. However, challenges remain, notably those relating to primer design. In the current study, we comprehensively assessed the performance of ten COI and two 16S primer pairs for eDNA metabarcoding, including novel and previously published primers. We used a combined approach of in silico, in vivo-mock community (33 arthropod taxa from 16 orders), and guano-based analyses to identify primer sets that would maximize arthropod detection and taxonomic identification, successfully identify the predator (bat) species and minimize the time and financial costs of the experiment. We focused on two insectivorous bat species which live together in mixed-colonies: the greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) and Geoffroy’s bat (Myotis emarginatus). We found that primer degeneracy is the main factor that influences arthropod detection in silico and mock community analyses, while amplicon length is critical for the detection of arthropods from degraded DNA samples. Our guano-based results highlight the importance of detecting and identifying both predator and prey, as guano samples can be contaminated by other insectivorous species. Moreover, we demonstrate that amplifying bat DNA does not reduce the primers’ capacity to detect arthropods. We therefore recommend the simultaneous identification of predator and prey. Finally, our results suggest that up to one third of prey occurrences may be unreliable and are probably not of primary interest in diet studies, which may decrease the relevance of combining several primer sets instead of using a single efficient one. In conclusion, this study provides a pragmatic framework for eDNA primer selection with respect to scientific and methodological constraints.

Usage notes


Agence Nationale de la Recherche, Award: ANR-11-IDEX-0007

French National Institute for Agricultural Research

European Commission


CBGP laboratory,

Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region,

Nouvelle-Aquitaine DREAL

LabEx CeMEB, Award: ANR-10-LABX-04-01