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Here we describe GoFish, a strategy for single-species environmental DNA (eDNA) presence/absence assays using nested PCR. The assays amplify a mitochondrial 12S rDNA segment with vertebrate metabarcoding primers, followed by nested PCR with M13-tailed, species-specific primers. Sanger sequencing confirms positives detected by gel electrophoresis. We first obtained 12S sequences from 77 fish specimens for 36 northwestern Atlantic taxa not well documented in GenBank. Using these and existing 12S records, we designed GoFish assays for 11 bony fish species common in the lower Hudson River estuary and tested seasonal abundance and habitat preference at two sites. Additional assays detected nine cartilaginous fish species and a marine mammal, bottlenose dolphin, in southern New York Bight. GoFish sensitivity was equivalent to Illumina MiSeq metabarcoding. Unlike quantitative PCR (qPCR), GoFish does not require tissues of target and related species for assay development and a basic thermal cycler is sufficient. Unlike Illumina metabarcoding, indexing and batching samples are unnecessary and advanced bioinformatics expertise is not needed. From water collection to Sanger sequencing results, the assay can be carried out in three days. The main limitations to this approach, which employs metabarcoding primers, are the same as for metabarcoding, namely, inability to distinguish species with shared target sequences and inconsistent amplification of rarer eDNA. In addition, the performance of the 20 assays reported here as compared to other single-species eDNA assays is not known. This approach will be a useful addition to current eDNA methods when analyzing presence/absence of known species, when turnaround time is important, and in educational settings.


This article was originally published in PLOS One, available at DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0198717.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0).



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