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DNA metabarcoding and microscopic analyses of sea turtles biofilms: Complementary to understand turtle behavior

Abstract : Sea turtles are distributed in tropical and subtropical seas worldwide. They play several ecological roles and are considered important indicators of the health of marine ecosystems. Studying epibiotic diatoms living on turtle shells suggestively has great potential in the study of turtle behavior because diatoms are always there. However, diatom identification at the species level is time consuming, requires well-trained specialists, and there is a high probability of finding new taxa growing on turtle shells, which makes identification tricky. An alternative approach based on DNA barcoding and high throughput sequencing (HTS), metabarcoding, has been developed in recent years to identify species at the community level by using a DNA reference library. The suitabilities of morphological and molecular approaches were compared. Diatom assemblages were sampled from seven juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas) from Mayotte Island, France. The structures of the epibiotic diatom assemblages differed between both approaches. This resulted in different clustering of the turtles based on their diatom communities. Metabarcoding allowed better discrimination between turtles based on their epibiotic diatom assemblages and put into evidence the presence of a cryptic diatom diversity. Microscopy, for its part, provided more ecological information of sea turtles based on historical bibliographical data and the abundances of ecological guilds of the diatom species present in the samples. This study shows the complementary nature of these two methods for studying turtle behavior.
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Sinziana Rivera, Valentin Vasselon, Katia Ballorain, Alice Carpentier, Carlos E. Wetzel, et al.. DNA metabarcoding and microscopic analyses of sea turtles biofilms: Complementary to understand turtle behavior. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2018, 13 (4), pp.e0195770. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0195770⟩. ⟨hal-02624564⟩

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