Environmental DNA (eDNA): A tool for quantifying the abundant but elusive round goby (Neogobius melanostomus)

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Abstract

Environmental DNA (eDNA) is revolutionizing biodiversity monitoring, occupancy estimates, and real-time detections of invasive species. In the Great Lakes, the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus), an invasive benthic fish from the Black Sea, has spread to encompass all five lakes and many tributaries, outcompeting or consuming native species; however, estimates of round goby abundance are confounded by behavior and habitat preference, which impact reliable methods for estimating their population. By integrating eDNA into round goby monitoring, improved estimates of biomass may be obtainable. We conducted mesocosm experiments to estimate rates of goby DNA shedding and decay. Further, we compared eDNA with several methods of traditional field sampling to compare its use as an alternative/complementary monitoring method. Environmental DNA decay was comparable to other fish species, and first-order decay was lower at 12C (k = 0.043) than at 19C (k = 0.058). Round goby eDNA was routinely detected in known invaded sites of Lake Michigan and its tributaries (range log10 4.8–6.2 CN/L), but not upstream of an artificial fish barrier. Traditional techniques (mark-recapture, seining, trapping) in Lakes Michigan and Huron resulted in fewer, more variable detections than eDNA, but trapping and eDNA were correlated (Pearson R = 0.87). Additional field testing will help correlate round goby abundance with eDNA, providing insight on its role as a prey fish and its impact on food webs.

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Nevers, M. B., Byappanahalli, M. N., Morris, C. C., Shively, D., Przybyla-Kelly, K., Spoljaric, A. M., … Roseman, E. F. (2018). Environmental DNA (eDNA): A tool for quantifying the abundant but elusive round goby (Neogobius melanostomus). PLoS ONE, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191720

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