• Assessment and application of DNA metabarcoding for characterizing Arctic shorebird chick diets

      Gerik, Danielle Elizabeth; López, J. Andrés; Lanctot, Richard; Gurney, Kirsty; Wipfli, Mark (2018-12)
      Climate change in the Arctic is affecting the emergence timing of arthropods used as food by nesting shorebirds and their young. Characterizing the diets of shorebird young is a prerequisite to evaluate the potential for asynchrony to occur between the timing of arthropod emergence and when shorebird young hatch, an example of trophic mismatch. In this study, DNA metabarcoding was used to identify arthropod remains in feces collected from wild-caught Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos), and Dunlin (Calidris alpina), young in Utqiaġvik, Alaska between 2014 and 2016. Arthropod specimens were collected at the field site to generate DNA reference sequences from potential prey items. The newly generated sequences in combination with publicly available sequences served as a reference set for species determinations. I assessed the ability of two mitochondrial markers (CO1 and 16s) to detect arthropods in the feces of captive pre-fledged young in controlled feeding experiments. After combining information from both markers, experimental prey taxa were detected in chick feces 82-100% of the time, except for Trichoptera which was never detected. I used the same strategy to characterize the diets of wild-caught shorebird young. The technique detected nearly all prey families documented in historical gut content analyses, as well as 17 novel families. Some of the novel prey diversity may be the result of detecting the prey of prey, known as secondary consumption. We observed that the diets of shorebird young shifted over the course of a summer. Changes in diet generally reflected arthropod composition in the environment estimated from collection of arthropods in pitfall traps. Evidence of diet flexibility by shorebird young suggests that chicks can shift their diets to take advantage of intra-seasonal changes in prey availability. Here, I provide an evaluation and application of DNA metabarcoding to characterize prey resource use by shorebird young for assessing the presence and impacts of trophic mismatch.