Application of species-specific primers to estimate the in situ diet of Bythotrephes [Cladocera, Onychopoda] in its native European range via molecular gut content analysis

J Plankton Res. 2021 Oct 28;43(6):945-956. doi: 10.1093/plankt/fbab070. eCollection 2021 Nov-Dec.


The study of invasive species often focuses on regions of recent introduction rather than native habitats. Understanding an invasive species in its natural environment, however, can provide important insights regarding the long-term outcome of invasions. In this study we investigated the diet of the invasive spiny water flea, Bythotrephes longimanus, in two Austrian perialpine lakes, where it is native. The gut contents of wild-caught Bythotrephes individuals were estimated by quantitative polymerase chain reaction, targeting species-specific fragments of the barcoding region of the cytochrome c oxidase I gene of potential prey. The observed prey spectrum of Bythotrephes in the study lakes consisted primarily of Eudiaptomus gracilis and Diaphanosoma brachyurum. The Daphnia longispina complex, Leptodora kindtii and Mesocyclops leuckarti also contributed to the diet. Results indicate that Bythotrephes is a generalist feeder with a preference for epilimnetic prey.

Keywords: invasive species; perialpine lakes; spiny water flea; trophic interactions; zooplankton.