MEPS 609:187-196 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12828

First use of oceanic environmental DNA to study the spawning ecology of the Japanese eel Anguilla japonica

Aya Takeuchi1, Shun Watanabe2,*, Satoshi Yamamoto3, Michael J. Miller4, Tatsuhiro Fukuba5, Tetsuya Miwa5, Tatsufumi Okino6, Toshifumi Minamoto3, Katsumi Tsukamoto1,4

1Graduate School of Bioresource Sciences, Nihon University, 1866 Kameino, Fujisawa-shi, Kanagawa 252-0880, Japan
2Department of Fisheries, Faculty of Agriculture, Kindai University, Nara 631-8505, Japan
3Graduate School of Human Development and Environment, Kobe University, Hyogo 657-8501, Japan
4Department of Marine Science and Resource, Nihon University, 1866 Kameino, Fujisawa-shi, Kanagawa 252-0880, Japan
5Marine Technology and Engineering Center, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, 2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka, Kanagawa 237-0061, Japan
6Faculty of Environmental Earth Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0810, Japan
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis is emerging as an innovative tool to assess the distribution and biomass of species in aquatic environments that enables quick and non-invasive surveys compared to conventional sampling methods such as fishing, hydroacoustics, and diving observations. We applied eDNA analysis to spawning ecology research of the Japanese eel Anguilla japonica in the western North Pacific for the first time. A preliminary laboratory experiment using tank water containing eels confirmed that our specific primers and probe could identify the Japanese eel from a small amount of eDNA (about 0.5 ng per PCR reaction). During a 19-20 May 2015 ocean survey at the southern West Mariana Ridge, seawater samples were collected at 12 water depths at 9 stations in the spawning area of A. japonica. Out of 108 seawater samples, DNA was successfully amplified from 3 samples, which were collected at 250 and 400 m. According to published research on Japanese eel spawning ecology and eDNA dynamics, the eDNA positive signals obtained from the oceanic survey could have been from adult Japanese eels or from larvae from the last spawning events. Thus onboard eDNA analysis proved to be a viable approach for detecting Japanese eels in their spawning area along the southern West Mariana Ridge.


KEY WORDS: eDNA · Freshwater eel · Real-time PCR · Spawning ecology · Oceanic survey


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Cite this article as: Takeuchi A, Watanabe S, Yamamoto S, Miller MJ and others (2019) First use of oceanic environmental DNA to study the spawning ecology of the Japanese eel Anguilla japonica. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 609:187-196. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12828

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