Skip to main content

Data from: DNA metabarcoding unveils multi‐scale trophic variation in a widespread coastal opportunist

Cite this dataset

Siegenthaler, Andjin et al. (2018). Data from: DNA metabarcoding unveils multi‐scale trophic variation in a widespread coastal opportunist [Dataset]. Dryad.


A thorough understanding of ecological networks relies on comprehensive information on trophic relationships among species. Since unpicking the diet of many organisms is unattainable using traditional morphology‐based approaches, the application of high‐throughput sequencing methods represents a rapid and powerful way forward. Here, we assessed the application of DNA‐metabarcoding with nearly universal primers for the mitochondrial marker cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) in defining the trophic ecology of adult brown shrimp, Crangon crangon, in six European estuaries. The exact trophic role of this abundant and widespread coastal benthic species is somewhat controversial, while information on geographical variation remains scant. Results revealed a highly opportunistic behaviour. Shrimp stomach contents contained hundreds of taxa (>1000 molecular operational taxonomic units), of which 291 were identified as distinct species, belonging to 35 phyla. Only twenty ascertained species had a mean relative abundance of more than 0.5%. Predominant species included other abundant coastal and estuarine taxa, including the shore crab Carcinus maenas and the amphipod Corophium volutator. Jacobs’ selectivity index estimates based on DNA extracted from both shrimp stomachs and sediment samples were used to assess the shrimp's trophic niche indicating a generalist diet, dominated by crustaceans, polychaetes and fish. Spatial variation in diet composition, at regional and local scales, confirmed the highly flexible nature of this trophic opportunist. Furthermore, the detection of a prevalent, possibly endoparasitic fungus (Purpureocillium lilacinum) in the shrimp's stomach demonstrates the wide range of questions that can be addressed using metabarcoding, towards a more robust reconstruction of ecological networks.

Usage notes


Eastern Scheldt
Kent estuary
Mersey estuary
Aveiro estuary
Western Scheldt
Minho estuary