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A molecular approach to identifying the natural prey of the African creeping water bug Naucoris, a potential reservoir of Mycobacterium ulcerans

Gamboa, Maribet, Kimbirauskas, Ryan K., Merritt, Richard W., Monaghan, Michael T.
Journal of insect science 2012 v.12
diagnostic techniques, aquatic food webs, mitochondrial DNA, phylogeny, digestion, Hydrophilidae, digestive system, Anura, clones, surface water, freshwater, humans, polymerase chain reaction, Rotifera, Naucoridae, diet study techniques, Mycobacterium ulcerans, habitats, bacteria, fungi, Ghana
The extra-oral digestion of creeping water bugs (Naucoridae: Hemiptera) hinders the study of their diet using the standard method of identifying prey body parts in the gut. Genetic methods are available, but rely on PCR tests or similar diagnostics to confirm suspected prey. Where the potential prey is unknown and a broad search for all possible prey is desirable, methods that can potentially capture any prey item are required. Naucoris sp. is known to harbor Mycobacterium ulcerans (Actinomycetales: Mycobacteriaceae), the causative bacterium of Buruli ulcer. Outbreaks of Buruli ulcer have been associated with disturbed freshwater habitats, but the mode of transmission to humans remains unclear. Here we examine the diet of Naucoris sp., a dominant aquatic predator in water bodies in Ghana where the prevalence of Buruli ulcer is high. We cloned and sequenced 576 PCR products (mtDNA rrnL, cox1) isolated from the gut of 60 Naucoris sp. individuals to determining diet composition as broadly as possible. Using phylogenetic analysis of newly sequenced clones and 6 potential prey taxa collected from the site, sequences isolated from Naucoris sp. guts matched locally collected Coleoptera (Hydrophilidae). Blastn queries to GenBank of other clone sequences produced matches to (Anura) (n = 1), Rotifera (n = 5), and fungi (n = 4) as additional components of the diet. Our results suggest that sp. in this Buruli ulcer-endemic area feeds on a wide range of prey and body sizes, and that the approach could be successfully applied to studies of aquatic food webs where morphological identification of prey is impossible and where little or no a priori knowledge is available.