Monitoring newt communities in urban area using eDNA metabarcoding. PeerJ 2021 ;9():e12357. 10.7717/peerj.12357. 12357. PMC8628619. 14-12-2021
Newts are amphibians commonly present in small ponds or garden pools in urban areas. They are protected in many countries and their presence is monitored through visual observation and/or trapping. However, newts are not easy to spot as they are small, elusive and often hidden at the bottom of water bodies. In recent years, environmental DNA (eDNA) has become a popular tool for detecting newts, with a focus on individual species using qPCR assays. Here, we assess the effectiveness of eDNA metabarcoding compared to conventional visual surveys of newt diversity in 45 ponds within urban areas of Geneva canton, Switzerland. We designed newt-specific mitochondrial 16S rRNA primers, which assign the majority of amplicons to newts, and were able to detect four species known to be present in the region, including the invasive subspecies , native to the Italian peninsula, that has been introduced in the Geneva area recently. The obtained eDNA results were congruent overall with conventional surveys, confirming the morphological observations in the majority of cases (67%). In 25% of cases, a species was only detected genetically, while in 8% of cases, the observations were not supported by eDNA metabarcoding. Our study confirms the usefulness of eDNA metabarcoding as a tool for the effective and non-invasive monitoring of newt community and suggests its broader use for the survey of newt diversity in urban area at larger scales.
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