Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 6, pp 1335–1345 | Cite as

Molecular prey identification in wild Octopus vulgaris paralarvae

  • Álvaro RouraEmail author
  • Ángel F. González
  • Kevin Redd
  • Ángel Guerra
Original Paper


The trophic ecology of Octopus vulgaris paralarvae collected in 2008 off the Ría de Vigo, NW Spain (42° 12.80′ N–9° 00.00′ W), was approached by both morphological and molecular methods. External digestion of prey and posterior suction of the liquefied contents by wild O. vulgaris paralarvae made the morphological identification of gut contents impossible. Thus, a PCR-based method using group-specific primers was selected to identify prey consumed by O. vulgaris paralarvae in the pelagic realm. The mitochondrial ribosomal 16S gene region was chosen for designing group-specific primers, which targeted a broad range of crustaceans and fishes but avoided the amplification of predator DNA. These primers successfully amplified DNA of prey by using a semi-nested PCR-based approach and posterior cloning. Homology search and phylogenetic analysis were then conducted with the 20 different operational taxonomic units obtained to identify the putative organisms ingested. The phylogenetic analysis clustered ingested prey into 12 families of crustaceans (11 belonging to the order Decapoda and 1 to the order Euphausiacea) and two families of fishes (Gobiidae and Carangidae). According to the Czekanowski’s Index (CI), the trophic niche breadth of O. vulgaris paralarvae is low (CI = 0.13), which means that these paralarvae are specialist predators at least during the first weeks of their life cycle. It is the first time that natural prey has been identified in O. vulgaris paralarvae collected from the wild, and such knowledge may be critical to increasing the survival of O. vulgaris hatchlings in captivity, a goal that has been actively pursued since the 1960s by aquaculture researchers.


Prey Species Operational Taxonomic Unit Hermit Crab Specialist Predator Pelagic Ecosystem 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We acknowledge the comments and suggestions made by S. Jarman, B. Deagle and A. Passmore, during the onset of this work. We are indebted to Adam Smolenski (University of Tasmania) and Mariana Rivas (IIM, CSIC Vigo) for their valuable contribution to this research. We thank David Posada and Mateus Patricio (University of Vigo) for their advice to perform the phylogenetic analyses. We also thank the crew of the R/V “Mytilus” (IIM, CSIC Vigo) for their technical assistance in collecting the zooplankton samples. This study was supported by the project CAIBEX (Spanish Ministry of Innovation and Science CTM2007-66408-C02), LARECO (CTM2011-25929) and FEDER Funds and the first author by a JAE-pre grant (CSIC) that is cofinanced by Fondo Social Europeo (ESF).

Supplementary material

227_2012_1914_MOESM1_ESM.doc (98 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 98 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Álvaro Roura
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ángel F. González
    • 1
  • Kevin Redd
    • 2
  • Ángel Guerra
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas (CSIC)VigoSpain
  2. 2.Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), Marine Research LaboratoriesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia

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