Investigating the Potential Utility of Environmental DNA to Provide a Relative Abundance Index for the Depleted Teleost, Mulloway, Argyrosomus japonicus

Meaghan L. Rourke, Matt K. Broadhurst, Ashley M. Fowler, Jackson Wilkes Walburn, Julian M. Hughes, Donald Stewart Fielder, Joseph D. DiBattista, Elise M. Furlan

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Abstract

Non-invasive, low-cost methods for censusing depleted fish populations are being prioritised among many jurisdictions worldwide. Collecting environmental DNA (eDNA) could offer one such option for augmenting fish population assessments. However, candidate species need to be carefully selected because species-specific DNA shedding and decay rates are affected by many biotic and abiotic factors that may influence relative abundance estimates. In this study, we sought to ascertain if the eDNA of a depleted Australian teleost, mulloway, Argyrosomus japonicus, reflects its weight under controlled aquaria conditions. With four experiments, we investigated the relationships between mulloway eDNA concentrations and their weight tank−1 as a function of: (1) time post-tank establishment; (2) water temperatures (within the species’ tolerance range); (3) stocking densities; and (4) among individual, similar-sized fish. The concentrations of eDNA in tanks stabilised after six days, and a positive relationship was found between fish weight and eDNA concentration, despite some variability in shedding rates by similar-sized fish. There was also a positive effect of water temperature on eDNA concentrations, which reinforces the need to control for such abiotic factors. We conclude that there is strong utility in applying eDNA concentrations as an index of relative abundance for mulloway under controlled conditions, which justifies future field-based investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number322
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalDiversity
Volume15
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2023

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