False‐negative detections from environmental DNA collected in the presence of large numbers of killer whales (Orcinus orca)

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Pinfield, Róisín
Dillane, Eileen
Runge, Anne Kathrine W.
Evans, Alice
Mirimin, Luca
Niemann, Jonas
Reed, Thomas E.
Reid, David G.
Rogan, Emer
Samarra, Filipa I. P.
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John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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While environmental DNA (eDNA) is becoming increasingly established in biodiversity monitoring of freshwater ecosystems, the use of eDNA surveys in the marine environment is still in its infancy. Here, we use two approaches: targeted quantitative PCR (qPCR) and whole-genome enrichment capture followed by shotgun sequencing in an effort to amplify killer whale DNA from seawater samples. Samples were collected in close proximity to killer whales in inshore and offshore waters, in varying sea conditions and from the surface and subsurface but none returned strongly positive detections of killer whale eDNA. We validated our laboratory methodologies by successfully amplifying a dilution series of a positive control of killer whale DNA. Furthermore, DNA of Atlantic mackerel, which was present at all sites during sampling, was successfully amplified from the same seawater samples, with positive detections found in ten of the eighteen eDNA extracts. We discuss the various eDNA collection and amplification methodologies used and the abiotic and biotic factors that influence eDNA detection. We discuss possible explanations for the lack of positive killer whale detections, potential pitfalls, and the apparent limitations of eDNA for genetic research on cetaceans, particularly in offshore regions.
eDNA , Environmental DNA , Metagenomics , Orcinus orca , PCR , Scomber scombrus , Whole-genome enrichment
Pinfield, R., Dillane, E., Runge, A. K. W., Evans, A., Mirimin, L., Niemann, J., Reed, T. E., Reid, D. G., Rogan, E., Samarra, F. I. P., Sigsgaard, E. E. and Foote, A. D. (2019) 'False-negative detections from environmental DNA collected in the presence of large numbers of killer whales (Orcinus orca)', Environmental DNA, 1(4), pp. 316-328. doi: 10.1002/edn3.32