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Development of a real-time polymerase chain reaction assay for the detection of the invasive Mediterranean fanworm, Sabella spallanzanii, in environmental samples

Wood, Susanna A., Zaiko, Anastasija, Richter, Ingrid, Inglis, Graeme J., Pochon, Xavier
Environmental science and pollution research international 2017 v.24 no.21 pp. 17373-17382
DNA, Sabellidae, biofouling, cross reaction, cytochrome-c oxidase, detection limit, economic impact, genes, mitochondria, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, sediments, Australia, New Zealand
The Mediterranean fanworm, Sabella spallanzanii Gmelin 1791, was first detected in the Southern Hemisphere in the 1990s and is now abundant in many parts of southern Australia and in several locations around northern New Zealand. Once established, it can proliferate rapidly, reaching high densities with potential ecological and economic impacts. Early detection of new S. spallanzanii incursions is important to prevent its spread, guide eradication or control efforts and to increase knowledge on the species’ dispersal pathways. In this study, we developed a TaqMan probe real-time polymerase chain reaction assay targeting a region of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene. The assay was validated in silico and in vitro using DNA from New Zealand and Australian Sabellidae with no cross-reactivity detected. The assay has a linear range of detection over seven orders of magnitude with a limit of detection reached at 12.4 × 10⁻⁴ ng/μL of DNA. We analysed 145 environmental (water, sediment and biofouling) samples and obtained positive detections only from spiked samples and those collected at a port where S. spallanzanii is known to be established. This assay has the potential to enhance current morphological and molecular-based methods, through its ability to rapidly and accurately identify S. spallanzanii in environmental samples.