DNA metabarcoding analysis of the bare-nosed wombat (Vombatus ursinus) diet

Ecol Evol. 2024 May 20;14(5):e11432. doi: 10.1002/ece3.11432. eCollection 2024 May.


Wombats are native herbivorous grazers that have adapted to Australia's low-quality forage. Studies on diet selection by bare-nosed wombats (Vombatus ursinus) are limited and are either observational or based on microhistological studies. The current study determined the diet of wombats through DNA metabarcoding across five study sites in New South Wales over a one-year period. Metabarcoding was chosen as it is non-invasive, less time consuming and more specific than traditional techniques. The list of 209 plant species identified as eaten by wombats in this study is much higher than previously reported, with grasses being the most common plant group identified in all samples. Most dietary items identified were introduced plant species. Seasonal differences in plants eaten occurred at four of the five study sites and may reflect dietary abundance and floristic composition at different times of year. Further studies are required to determine if the dietary items differ markedly across the entire range of wombats, and if nutrition influences dietary preferences.

Keywords: ITSF2; herbivore; marsupial diet; next‐generation sequencing.