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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01187

Environmental DNA approach complements social media reports to detect an endangered freshwater stingray species in the wild

Kean Chong Lim*, Amy Y. Then

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Environmental DNA (eDNA) barcoding has emerged as an important non-invasive sampling technique for detection of rare and endangered species that can be difficult to sample. Our objective was to develop a low-cost eDNA barcoding approach for detection of an endangered freshwater stingray species (Fluvitrygon kittipongi) in a tropical river system in Peninsular Malaysia. We designed a species-specific primer for a fragment of F. kittipongi cytochrome oxidase subunit I mtDNA (244 bp). The effectiveness of this primer to detect the stingray was evaluated using water samples taken from upper and middle reaches of the Pahang River coupled with social media reports on sightings of F. kittipongi. Five of 14 water samples tested showed positive polymerase chain reaction amplification for the targeted species. These results represent the first successful application of eDNA to detect freshwater stingrays in Malaysia. Using a combination of freshly obtained carcass samples, social media reporting, and target species eDNA detection, this study provides formal occurrence records of F. kittipongi in Malaysia in 3 major watersheds: the Perak, Pahang and Kelantan Rivers.