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Keywords:

  • arrow squid;
  • diet analysis;
  • generalist predator;
  • molecular;
  • morphological;
  • Southern Ocean

Abstract

Establishing the diets of marine generalist consumers is difficult, with most studies limited to the use of morphological methods for prey identification. Such analyses rely on the preservation of diagnostic hard parts, which can limit taxonomic resolution and introduce biases. DNA-based analyses provide a method to assess the diets of marine species, potentially overcoming many of the limitations introduced by other techniques. This study compared the effectiveness of morphological and DNA-based analysis for determining the diet of a free-ranging generalist predator, the arrow squid (Nototodarus gouldi). A combined approach was more effective than using either of the methods in isolation. Nineteen unique prey taxa were identified, of which six were found by both methods, 10 were only detected using DNA and three were only identified using morphological methods. Morphological techniques only found 50% of the total number of identifiable prey taxa, whereas DNA-based techniques found 84%. This study highlights the benefits of using a combination of techniques to detect and identify prey of generalist marine consumers.