Comparison of meiofaunal diversity by combined morphological and molecular approaches in a shallow Mediterranean sediment
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Fast, accurate and thorough assessments of meiofaunal communities are crucial requirements for ecological studies and routine monitoring of ecosystem status. This study scrutinizes the reliability of the molecular approach through a comparison of morphological and molecular inventories of meiofaunal diversity, with a special focus on nematodes. Sediment samples were collected from a reference coastal Mediterranean site. Metabarcoding analysis was performed using a nuclear marker (small subunit 18S ribosomal RNA) and compared to a morphological analysis performed on the same sample-cores. The results from morphological and molecular inventories differed but were complementary. The molecular analysis revealed a remarkable level of diversity (16 phyla) that exceeded the traditional morphological analysis (10 phyla), showing that meiofaunal diversity can greatly exceed current perceptions. The molecular method proved powerful in detecting the presence of soft-bodied predators, such as Platyhelminthes, possibly reflecting preservation bias in morphological approaches. Even if the molecular inventory identified 57.5% of the sampled diversity, surprisingly, it has not revealed the presence of some nematode genera identified through morphological assessment. While the technique is promising, some further developments are required. As the dominant genus Sabatieria was undetected by the molecular approach, despite being present in the Silva database, improving the knowledge of specific primers should be a priority. Additionally, with 77% of nematode OTUs remaining unassigned at genera level, remedy this lower efficiency requires further investigations to provide DNA-sequences of all morphologically identified species.
KeywordsMeiofauna Morphological Method Morphological Approach Meiofaunal Community Molecular Dataset
This research received support from CNRS as the APEGE programme (incentive funds from the Institute of Ecology and Environment - InEE). Additional support was obtained from the chair of biodiversity, extreme marine environments and global change supported by Foundation TOTAL. We acknowledge Hervé Moreau for his support and stimulating discussions, Nigel Grimsley and Wiley Edition Services for English correction. We thank Jean-Claude Roca and Bruno Hesse, the scuba divers, and the R/V crew Nereis II of the Observatoire Océanologique in Banyuls-sur-Mer. We thank anonymous reviewers for improvement of the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
This study was partly funded by the chair of biodiversity supported by Foundation TOTAL (J091I006).
Conflict of interest
All authors declared they have no conflict of interest.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
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