Determining plant-leaf miner-parasitoid interactions: a DNA barcoding approach

PLoS One. 2015 Feb 24;10(2):e0117872. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117872. eCollection 2015.

Abstract

A major challenge in network ecology is to describe the full-range of species interactions in a community to create highly-resolved food-webs. We developed a molecular approach based on DNA full barcoding and mini-barcoding to describe difficult to observe plant-leaf miner-parasitoid interactions, consisting of animals commonly regarded as agricultural pests and their natural enemies. We tested the ability of universal primers to amplify the remaining DNA inside leaf miner mines after the emergence of the insect. We compared the results of a) morphological identification of adult specimens; b) identification based on the shape of the mines; c) the COI Mini-barcode (130 bp) and d) the COI full barcode (658 bp) fragments to accurately identify the leaf-miner species. We used the molecular approach to build and analyse a tri-partite ecological network of plant-leaf miner-parasitoid interactions. We were able to detect the DNA of leaf-mining insects within their feeding mines on a range of host plants using mini-barcoding primers: 6% for the leaves collected empty and 33% success after we observed the emergence of the leaf miner. We suggest that the low amplification success of leaf mines collected empty was mainly due to the time since the adult emerged and discuss methodological improvements. Nevertheless our approach provided new species-interaction data for the ecological network. We found that the 130 bp fragment is variable enough to identify all the species included in this study. Both COI fragments reveal that some leaf miner species could be composed of cryptic species. The network built using the molecular approach was more accurate in describing tri-partite interactions compared with traditional approaches based on morphological criteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Barcoding, Taxonomic*
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • DNA Primers / metabolism
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / classification
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics
  • Food Chain
  • Insecta / growth & development
  • Larva / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Leaves / genetics
  • Plant Leaves / parasitology
  • Plants / genetics*
  • Plants / parasitology

Substances

  • DNA Primers
  • Electron Transport Complex IV

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.5DR5K
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Grant support

The project was funded by the University of Hull. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.