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Suction sampling as a significant source of error in molecular analysis of predator diets

King, R. A.; Davey, J. S.; Bell, J. R.; Read, D. S.; Bohan, D. A.; Symondson, W. O.C.


R. A. King

J. S. Davey

J. R. Bell

D. S. Read

D. A. Bohan

W. O.C. Symondson


The molecular detection of predation is a fast growing field, allowing highly specific and sensitive detection of prey DNA within the gut contents or faeces of a predator. Like all molecular methods, this technique is prone to potential sources of error that can result in both false positive and false negative results. Here, we test the hypothesis that the use of suction samplers to collect predators from the field for later molecular analysis of predation will lead to high numbers of false positive results. We show that, contrary to previous published work, the use of suction samplers resulted in previously starved predators testing positive for aphid and collembolan DNA, either as a results of ectopic contamination or active predation in the collecting cup/bag. The contradictory evidence for false positive results, across different sampling protocols, sampling devices and different predator-prey systems, highlights the need for experimentation prior to mass field collections of predators to find techniques that minimise the risk of false positives. © 2011 Cambridge University Press.


King, R. A., Davey, J. S., Bell, J. R., Read, D. S., Bohan, D. A., & Symondson, W. O. (2012). Suction sampling as a significant source of error in molecular analysis of predator diets. Bulletin of Entomological Research, 102(03), 261-266.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jun 1, 2012
Journal Bulletin of Entomological Research
Print ISSN 0007-4853
Electronic ISSN 1475-2670
Publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 102
Issue 03
Pages 261-266
Keywords aphid, carabid, Collembola, false positive, spider
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