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The diversity of arthropods in homes across the United States as determined by environmental DNA analyses
- Madden, Anne A., Barberán, Albert, Bertone, Matthew A., Menninger, Holly L., Dunn, Robert R., Fierer, Noah
- Molecular ecology 2016 v.25 no.24 pp. 6214-6224
- DNA, allergens, arthropods, climate, disease vectors, dust, food webs, genetic markers, human health, invasive species, land use, prediction, sequence analysis, United States
- We spend most of our lives inside homes, surrounded by arthropods that impact our property as pests and our health as disease vectors and producers of sensitizing allergens. Despite their relevance to human health and well‐being, we know relatively little about the arthropods that exist in our homes and the factors structuring their diversity. As previous work has been limited in scale by the costs and time associated with collecting arthropods and the subsequent morphological identification, we used a DNA‐based method for investigating the arthropod diversity in homes via high‐throughput marker gene sequencing of home dust. Settled dust samples were collected by citizen scientists from both inside and outside more than 700 homes across the United States, yielding the first continental‐scale estimates of arthropod diversity associated with our residences. We were able to document food webs and previously unknown geographic distributions of diverse arthropods – from allergen producers to invasive species and nuisance pests. Home characteristics, including the presence of basements, home occupants and surrounding land use, were more useful than climate parameters in predicting arthropod diversity in homes. These noninvasive, scalable tools and resultant findings not only provide the first continental‐scale maps of household arthropod diversity, but our analyses also provide valuable baseline information on arthropod allergen exposures and the distributions of invasive pests inside homes.