Detection of a global aquatic invasive amphibian, Xenopus laevis, using environmental DNA

In: Amphibia-Reptilia
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  • 1 GECCO, Université d’Angers, Angers, France
  • 2 UMR CNRS 6554 LETG – LEESA, Université d’Angers, Angers, France
  • 3 Spygen, Le Bourget du Lac, France
  • 4 Agglomération du Bocage Bressuirais, Bressuire, France
  • 5 EPHE, UMR 5175 CEFE, Montpellier, France

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Detection is crucial in the study and control of invasive species but it may be limited by methodological issues. In amphibians, classical survey techniques exhibit variable detection probability depending on species and are often constrained by climatic conditions often requiring several site visits. Furthermore, detection may be reduced at low density because probability capture (passive traps), or activity (acoustic surveys) drop. Such limits may impair the study of invasive species because low density is typical of the onset of colonisation on a site. In the last few years, environmental DNA (eDNA) methods have proved their ability to detect the presence of aquatic species. We developed here an eDNA method to detect Xenopus laevis in ponds. This austral African species is now present worldwide because of its use in biology and as a pet. Populations have settled and expanded on several continents so that it is now considered as one of the major invasive amphibians in the World. We detected the presence of X. laevis at density as low as 1 ind/100 m2 and found a positive relationship between density in ponds and rate of DNA amplification. Results show that eDNA can be successfully applied to survey invasive populations of X. laevis even at low density in order to confirm suspected cases of introduction, delimit the expansion of a colonized range, or monitor the efficiency of a control program.

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