Optimisation of a pollen DNA metabarcoding method for diet analysis of flying-foxes (Pteropus spp.)

Karen L. Bell, Kathryn L. Batchelor, Matt Bradford, Adam McKeown, Stewart L. MacDonald, David Westcott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Determining the diet of flying-foxes can increase understanding of how they function as pollinators and seed dispersers, as well as managing any negative impacts of large roosts. Traditional methods for diet analysis are time consuming, and not feasible to conduct for hundreds of animals. In this study, we optimised a method for diet analysis, based on DNA metabarcoding of environmental DNA (eDNA) from pollen and other plant parts in the faeces. We found that existing eDNA metabarcoding protocols are suitable, with the most useful results being obtained using a commercial food DNA extraction kit, and sequencing 350-450 base pairs of a DNA barcode from the internally transcribed spacer region (ITS2), with ∼550 base pairs of the chloroplast rubisco large subunit (rbcL) as a secondary DNA barcode. A list of forage plants was generated for the little red flying-fox (Pteropus scapulatus), the black flying-fox (Pteropus alecto) and the spectacled flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) from our collection sites across Queensland. The diets were determined to comprise predominantly Myrtaceae species, particularly those in the genera Eucalyptus, Melaleuca and Corymbia. With more plant genomes becoming publicly available in the future, there are likely to be further applications of eDNA methods in understanding the role of flying-foxes as pollinators and seed dispersers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-284
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Journal of Zoology
Issue number6
Early online date28 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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