We studied their faecal DNA using DNA metabarcoding, and revealed a broad dietary spectrum. The large intraspecific variations between roosting groups may reflect the probable usage of different habitat types. It's our first study on a local endangered species! Hope the knowledge obtained will be useful for its conservation. Congrats to Pei-Yu, Emily and Anson!
DNA metabarcoding reveals the dietary composition in the endangered black-faced spoonbill
Extensive loss of natural wetlands caused by changes in land use largely diminishes the food resources essential for the survival of migratory waterbirds. Globally, the decline in waterbird populations in East Asia is the most serious, with 64% of these populations showing a decreasing trend. In this study, we applied DNA metabarcoding to examine the spatiotemporal variations and diversities in the dietary compositions of migratory waterbirds in a natural/artificial wetland complex in Asia. By investigating 110 fecal samples from the endangered black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor) wintering in the wetland, our results show that P. minor had a broad dietary spectrum. The birds fed on at least 26 species in the classes Actinopterygii and Malacostraca, with Mugiliformes, Cichliformes, and Gobiiformes being the main taxa in their diets. Our results also demonstrated clear patterns of the spatiotemporal variations between the roosting groups and intraspecific variations between the individuals, which potentially reflect some of their feeding habits, and the probable usage of different habitat types in the wetland complex. Using high-throughput sequencing, we were able to elucidate the food resources that are critical to P. minor non-invasively, this method can also be used to provide invaluable information for the conservation of many other waterbird species.
Photo credit: Hon Shing Fung.