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Group-specific polymerase chain reaction for DNA-based analysis of species diversity and identity in dietary samples


Simon Jarman. Fax: 61-3-62325000, E-mail:


Unique DNA sequences are present in all species and can be used as biomarkers for the detection of cells from that species. These DNA sequences can most easily be detected using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which allows very small quantities of target DNA sequence to be amplified even when the target is mixed with large amounts of nontarget DNA. PCR amplification of DNA markers that are present in a wide range of species has proven very useful for studies of species diversity in environmental samples. The taxonomic range of species to be identified from environmental samples may often need to be restricted to simplify downstream analyses and to ensure that less abundant sequences are amplified. Group-specific PCR primer sets are one means of specifying the range of taxa that produce an amplicon in a PCR. We have developed a range of group-specific PCR primers for studying the prey diversity found in predator stomach contents and scats. These primers, their design and their application to studying prey diversity and identity in predator diet are described.