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Spider webs as a source of environmental DNA: A preliminary report

Matjaž Gregorič (1), Matjaž Kuntner (1, 2), Maja Ravnikar (2) & Denis Kutnjak (2)

(1) Evolutionary Zoology Laboratory, Biological Institute ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana, Slovenia
(2) National Institute of Biology, Ljubljana, Slovenia


Sampling of environmental DNA (eDNA) coupled with state-of-the-art molecular detection approaches can potentially overcome many limitations of traditional biodiversity monitoring. Several tissues from live organisms represent potential sources of eDNA, e.g. urine and other excretions, feces, integument, seeds and spores, but eDNA from dead organisms can also be available in form of whole cells or extracellular genetic fragments. Spider webs as aerial traps/ filters represent an interesting new eDNA source. Only two studies to date have investigated spider web eDNA, and have successfully obtained both spider and prey DNA directly from webs. However, these studies were conducted in controlled laboratory conditions, and thus DNA degrading factors, such as heat, humidity, and light, have likely been reduced compared to field conditions. We here outline a research agenda that aims to assess the utility of spider webs as sources of eDNA. Here, we report how we investigate the detection efficiency of prey genetic material on two different web types in nature, the orb and sheet webs. In controlled laboratory conditions, we test how DNA degrading factors, specifically light, heat and humidity affect the detection efficiency of eDNA from webs.

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Matjaž Gregorič, Matjaž Kuntner, Maja Ravnikar & Denis Kutnjak