In surveillance of subterranean fauna, especially in the case of rare or elusive aquatic species, traditional techniques used for epigean species are often not feasible. We developed a non-invasive survey method based on environmental DNA (eDNA) to detect the presence of the red-listed cave-dwelling amphibian, Proteus anguinus, in the caves of the Dinaric Karst. We tested the method in fifteen caves in Croatia, from which the species was previously recorded or expected to occur. We successfully confirmed the presence of P. anguinus from ten caves and detected the species for the first time in five others. Using a hierarchical occupancy model we compared the availability and detection probability of eDNA of two water sampling methods, filtration and precipitation. The statistical analysis showed that both availability and detection probability depended on the method and estimates for both probabilities were higher using filter samples than for precipitation samples. Combining reliable field and laboratory methods with robust statistical modeling will give the best estimates of species occurrence.
Drawing: Marija Crnčec.
|Fig 1. Sampling locations of 16 caves in Croatia.|
Insert (right) shows location of Croatia in Europe (black). Dotted area shows approximate range of P. anguinus. Drawing of P. anguinus is courtesy of Marija Crnčec.
Judit Vörös, Orsolya Márton, Benedikt R. Schmidt, Júlia Tünde Gál and Dušan Jelić. 2017. Surveying Europe’s Only Cave-Dwelling Chordate Species (Proteus anguinus) Using Environmental DNA. PLoS ONE. 12(1): e0170945. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0170945