Biomonitoring of marine vertebrates in Monterey Bay using eDNA metabarcoding
Elizabeth A. Andruszkiewicz, Hilary A. Starks, Francisco P. Chavez, Lauren M. Sassoubre, Barbara A. Block, Alexandria B. Boehm
Molecular analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA) can be used to assess vertebrate biodiversity in aquatic systems, but limited work has applied eDNA technologies to marine waters. Further, there is limited understanding of the spatial distribution of vertebrate eDNA in marine waters. Here, we use an eDNA metabarcoding approach to target and amplify a hypervariable region of the mitochondrial 12S rRNA gene to characterize vertebrate communities at 10 oceanographic stations spanning 45 km within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). In this study, we collected three biological replicates of small volume water samples (1 L) at 2 depths at each of the 10 stations. We amplified fish mitochondrial DNA using a universal primer set. We obtained 5,644,299 high quality Illumina sequence reads from the environmental samples. The sequence reads were annotated to the lowest taxonomic assignment using a bioinformatics pipeline. The eDNA survey identified, to the lowest taxonomic rank, 7 families, 3 subfamilies, 10 genera, and 72 species of vertebrates at the study sites. These 92 distinct taxa come from 33 unique marine vertebrate families. We observed significantly different vertebrate community composition between sampling depths (0 m and 20/40 m deep) across all stations and significantly different communities at stations located on the continental shelf (<200 m bottom depth) versus in the deeper waters of the canyons of Monterey Bay (>200 m bottom depth). All but 1 family identified using eDNA metabarcoding is known to occur in MBNMS. The study informs the implementation of eDNA metabarcoding for vertebrate biomonitoring.