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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 698:139-154 (2022)  -  DOI:

Comparative visual and DNA-based diet assessment extends the prey spectrum of polar cod Boreogadus saida

Sarah M. Maes1,*,#, Fokje L. Schaafsma2,#, Henrik Christiansen1, Bart Hellemans1, Magnus Lucassen3, Felix C. Mark3, Hauke Flores3, Filip A. M. Volckaert1

1Laboratory of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Genomics, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
2Wageningen Marine Research, 1781 AG Den Helder, The Netherlands
3Alfred-Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
*Corresponding author:
#These authors share equal authorship

ABSTRACT: The Arctic marine ecosystem is changing fast due to climate change, emphasizing the need for solid ecological baselines and monitoring. The polar cod Boreogadus saida functions as a key species in the Arctic marine food web. We investigated the stomach contents of polar cod from the northern Barents Sea using DNA metabarcoding with the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase I gene in parallel with classical visual analysis. Arctic amphipods and krill dominated the diet in both methods. Yet, metabarcoding allowed for the identification of digested and unidentifiable prey and provided higher taxonomic resolution, revealing new and undiscovered prey items of polar cod in the area. Furthermore, molecular results suggest a higher importance of barnacles and fish (presumably eggs and pelagic larvae) in the diet than previously recorded. Parasites and, in 6 cases, other prey items were only visually identified, demonstrating the complementary nature of both approaches. The presence of temperate and boreal prey species such as northern krill and (early life stages of) European flounder and European plaice illustrates the advection of boreal taxa into the polar region or may be indicative of ongoing borealisation in the Barents Sea. We show that a combination of visual analysis and metabarcoding provides complementary and semi-quantitative dietary information and integrative insights to monitor changing marine food webs.

KEY WORDS: DNA metabarcoding · Borealisation · Arctic ecosystem · Arctic cod · Prey composition · Barents Sea · Stomach contents · Trophic ecology

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Cite this article as: Maes SM, Schaafsma FL, Christiansen H, Hellemans B and others (2022) Comparative visual and DNA-based diet assessment extends the prey spectrum of polar cod Boreogadus saida. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 698:139-154.

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