Monitoring of noble, signal and narrow-clawed crayfish using environmental DNA from freshwater samples

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For several hundred years freshwater crayfish (Crustacea-Decapoda-Astacidea) have played an important ecological, cultural and culinary role in Scandinavia. However, many native populations of noble crayfish Astacus astacus have faced major declines during the last century, largely resulting from human assisted expansion of non-indigenous signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus that carry and transmit the crayfish plague pathogen. In Denmark, also the non-indigenous narrow-clawed crayfish Astacus leptodactylus has expanded due to anthropogenic activities. Knowledge about crayfish distribution and early detection of non-indigenous and invasive species are crucial elements in successful conservation of indigenous crayfish. The use of environmental DNA (eDNA) extracted from water samples is a promising new tool for early and non-invasive detection of species in aquatic environments. In the present study, we have developed and tested quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays for species-specific detection and quantification of the three above mentioned crayfish species on the basis of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase 1 (mtDNA-CO1), including separate assays for two clades of A. leptodactylus. The limit of detection (LOD) was experimentally established as 5 copies/PCR with two different approaches, and the limit of quantification (LOQ) were determined to 5 and 10 copies/PCR, respectively, depending on chosen approach. The assays detected crayfish in natural freshwater ecosystems with known populations of all three species, and show promising potentials for future monitoring of A. astacus, P. leniusculus and A. leptodactylus. However, the assays need further validation with data 1) comparing traditional and eDNA based estimates of abundance, and 2) representing a broader geographical range for the involved crayfish species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0179261
Issue number6
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2017

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