Environmental DNA Reveals the Diversity and Abundance of Sharks and Rays in a Remote Coral Reef Atoll

Dunn, N., Savolainen, V., Weber, S., Andrzejaczek, S., Carbone, C., Curnick, D. (2022). Environmental DNA reveals the diversity and abundance of sharks and rays in a remote coral reef atoll. Molecular Ecology. Zoological Society of the Linnean Society.


As elasmobranchs are becoming increasingly threatened, efficient methods for monitoring the distribution and diversity of elasmobranch populations are required. Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding is a progressively applied technique that enables mass identification of entire communities and is an effective method for the detection of rare and elusive species. We performed an eDNA metabarcoding survey for fish communities around a coral reef atoll in the Chagos Archipelago (Central Indian Ocean) and assessed the diversity and distribution of elasmobranch species detected within these communities. Our eDNA survey detected 353 amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) attributed to fishes, 12 of which were elasmobranchs. There were no differences in fish communities based on the presence and absence of ASVs between sample depth (surface and 40 m) or sampling habitat, but communities based on read abundance were significantly different between habitats. The dominant elasmobranch species were grey reef (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and silvertip (C. albimarginatus) sharks, and elasmobranch communities were significantly different between sampling depth and habitat. Overall, we find that eDNA metabarcoding can be used to reveal the diversity of elasmobranchs within broader taxonomic assays, but further research and development of targeted metabarcoding primers may be required before it can be integrated into a toolkit for monitoring these species.

DOI: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlac014