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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 705:127-144 (2023)  -  DOI:

Trophic ecology of a migratory shorebird community at a globally important non-breeding site: combining DNA metabarcoding and conventional techniques

Edna Correia1,*, José Pedro Granadeiro1, Bárbara Santos1, Aissa Regalla2, Vanessa A. Mata3, Teresa Catry1

1Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar, Departamento de Biologia Animal, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal
2Instituto da Biodiversidade e Áreas Protegidas Dr. Alfredo Simão da Silva, Bissau, Guinea-Bissau
3CIBIO-InBIO, Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, University of Porto, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Studies providing a detailed diet description of whole-bird communities are surprisingly scarce. Yet, these studies are pivotal to comprehend the mechanisms structuring communities and the persistence of each species in the ecosystem. We characterized the diet of a shorebird community in a key non-breeding area of the East Atlantic Flyway, the Bijagós Archipelago (West Africa), combining molecular and morphological prey identification based on 239 droppings from 15 species. Our results show that while relying upon a super-abundant prey (fiddler crab), shorebirds consumed a very high number of taxa. We stress the relevance of highly mobile prey (especially crustaceans but also fish), which typically appear to be of little importance in most shorebird studies. Our results suggest that by consuming a high diversity of prey, shorebirds may reduce competition. This may be critical in a site ranked as the second most important area in West Africa for migratory shorebirds but marked by low benthic invertebrate availability. We further compared the performance of DNA metabarcoding and morphological identification of prey. Overall, molecular and morphological methods combined delivered the most comprehensive results, although molecular methods largely surpassed morphological methods regarding taxonomic detail achieved and number of prey taxa found (4 times more). Taxonomic resolution in the identification of polychaetes and bivalves using the 16S primer was low (mostly to class), whereas this primer clearly performed better than mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase in identifying more insects and fish. We emphasize the need to increase invertebrate representatives from West Africa in barcode databases, in order to enhance metabarcoding results.

KEY WORDS: Diet analysis · High-throughput sequencing · Waders · Guinea-Bissau · West Africa · East Atlantic Flyway

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Cite this article as: Correia E, Granadeiro JP, Santos B, Regalla A, Mata VA, Catry T (2023) Trophic ecology of a migratory shorebird community at a globally important non-breeding site: combining DNA metabarcoding and conventional techniques. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 705:127-144.

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