Quantifying Stomach Contents Using Immunoassays: A Critique

  • Robert J. Feller
  • Robert B. Ferguson
Part of the Lecture Notes on Coastal and Estuarine Studies book series (COASTAL, volume 25)


Immunological techniques have a long history of use in the qualitative examination of invertebrate diets, especially for insects (Calver, 1984). Typical dietary questions asked in the ecological application of serological methods include: does predator A ingest prey X, Y, and Z ?; what proportion of the predator population eats a particular prey organism ?; how long is a meal detectable ?; does selective predation occur (that is, does the predator eat prey X but not Y or Z) ? After using antisera to answer similar questions in marine food webs (Feller et al., 1979), it has become apparent that ecologists will never be satisfied with answers to such qualitative questions alone.


Total Soluble Protein Prey Type Meal Size Soluble Protein Concentration Prey Protein 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, J. 1981. Serological analysis of the diet of Bdellocephala punctata, a freshwater triclad. Oikos 36: 99–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashby, J.W. 1974. A study of arthropod predation of Pieris rapae L. using serological and exclusion techniques. J. Appl. Ecol. 11: 419–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Axelsen, N.H. and E. Bock. 1972. Identification and quantification of antigens and antibodies by means of quantitative Immunoelectrophoresis. A survey of methods. J. Immunol. Methods 1: 109–121.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berg, J. 1979. Discussion of methods of investigating the food of fishes, with reference to a preliminary study of the prey of Gobiusculus flavescens (Gobiidae). Mar. Biol. 50: 263–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bio-Rad. 1977. Bio-Rad Protein Assay. Tech. Bull. 1051, April. Bio-Rad Laboratories, Richmond, Calif. 3 pp.Google Scholar
  6. Calver, M.C. 1984. A review of ecological applications of immunological techniques for diet analysis. Aust. J. Ecol. 9: 19–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Calver, M.C., J.N. Matthiessen, G.P. Hall, J.S. Bradley and J.H. Lillywhite. 1986. Immunological determination of predators of the bush fly, Mizsca vetustissima Walker (Diptera: Muscidae), in south-western Australia. Bull. Ent. Res. 76: 133–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dempster, J.P. 1960. A quantitative study of the predators on the eggs and larvae of the broom beetle, Phytodecta olivaca Forster, using the precipitin test. J. Anim. Ecol. 29: 149–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Feller, R.J. 1984a. Dietary immunoassay of Ilyanassa obsoleta, the eastern mud snail. Biol. Bull. 166: 96–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Feller, R.J. 1984b. Serological tracers of meiofaunal food webs. Hydrobiologia 118: 119–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Feller, R.J., G.L. Taghon, E.D. Gallagher, G.E. Kenny and P.A. Jumars. 1979. Immunological methods for food web analysis in a soft-bottom benthic community. Mar. Biol. 54: 64–75.Google Scholar
  12. Greenstone, M.H. 1983. Site-specificity and site tenacity in a wolf spider: a serological dietary analysis. Oecologia, Berlin. 56: 79–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Grisley, M.S. and P.R. Boyle. 1985. A new application of serological techniques to gut content analysis. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 90: 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kenny, G.E. and H.M. Foy. 1975. Detection and quantitation of circulating polysaccharide in pneumococcal pneumonia by immunoelectroosmophoresis (counterelectrophoresis) and rocket electrophoresis. Microbiology 1975. Am. Soc. Microbiol. Wash. D.C. 1: 97–102.Google Scholar
  15. Kiritani, K. and J.P. Dempster. 1973. Different approaches to the quantitative evaluation of natural enemies. J. Appl. Ecol. 10: 323–330.Google Scholar
  16. Laurell, C.-B. 1966. Quantitative estimation of proteins by electrophoresis in agarose gel containing antibodies. Anal. Biochem. 15: 45–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Laurell, C.-B. and E.J. McKay. 1981. Electroimmunoassay. Methods in Enzymology 73: 339–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Peterson, C.H. and B.P. Bradley. 1978. Estimating the diet of a sluggish predator from field observations. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 35: 136–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pinkas, L., M.S. Oliphant and I.L.K. Iverson. 1971. Food habits of albacore, blue fin tuna, and bonito in California waters. Fish. Bull. Calif. 152: 1–105.Google Scholar
  20. Reynoldson, T.B. and R.W. Davies. 1970. Food niche and coexistence in lake-dwelling triclads. J. Anim. Ecol. 39: 599–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rothschild, G.H.L. 1966. A study of a natural population of Conomelus anceps (Germar) (Homoptera: Delphacidae) including observations on predation using the precipitin test. J. Anim. Ecol. 35:413–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rowe, G.T., N. Merrett, J. Shepherd, G. Needier, B. Hargrave and M. Marietta. 1986. Estimates of direct biological transport of radioactive waste in the deep sea with special reference to organic carbon budgets. Oceanologica Acta 9: 199–208.Google Scholar
  23. Schwinghamer, P., B. Hargrave, D. Peer and C.M. Hawkins. 1986. Partitioning of production and respiration among size groups of organisms in an intertidal benthic community. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 31:131–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sunderland, K.D. and S.L. Sutton. 1980. A serological study of arthropod predation on wood lice in a dune grassland ecosystem. J. Anim. Ecol. 49: 987–1004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Verbruggen, R. 1975. Quantitative immunoelectrophoretic methods: a literature survey. Clin. Chem. NY. 21: 5–43.Google Scholar
  26. Wang, A.-C. 1982. Methods of immune diffusion, Immunoelectrophoresis, precipitation, and agglutination. IN: Antibody as a Tool, the Applications of Immunochemistry. J.J. Marchalonis and G.W. Warr. (eds.). John Wiley & Sons, Chichester. pp. 139–161.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. Feller
    • 1
  • Robert B. Ferguson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biology Marine Science Program Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine Biology and Coastal ResearchUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine Biology and Coastal ResearchUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations