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Mol Ecol. 2002 Apr;11(4):627-41.

Molecular identification of prey in predator diets.

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School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, PO Box 915, Cardiff CF10 3TL, UK.


In many situations prey choice by predators in the field cannot be established or quantified using direct observation. The remains of some prey may be visually identified in the guts and faeces of predators but not all predators ingest such hard remains and even those that do consume them may also ingest soft-bodies prey that leave no recognizable remnants. The result is, at best, a biased picture of prey choice. A range of molecular techniques and applications are reviewed that allow prey remains to be identified, often to the species and even stage level. These techniques, all of which are still in use, include enzyme electrophoresis, a range of immunological approaches using polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies to detect protein epitopes, and recently developed polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based methods for detecting prey DNA. Analyses may be postmortem, on invertebrate and vertebrate predators collected from the field, or noninvasive assays of the remains in regurgitated bird pellets or vertebrate faeces. It was concluded that although monoclonal antibodies are currently the most effective method in use today, PCR-based techniques have proved to be highly effective and versatile in recent laboratory trials and are likely to rapidly displace all other approaches.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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