Diet assessment of the Atlantic Sea Nettle Chrysaora quinquecirrha in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, using next-generation sequencing

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Next-generation sequencing (NGS) methodologies have proven useful in deciphering the food items of generalist predators, but have yet to be applied to gelatinous animal gut and tentacle content. NGS can potentially supplement traditional methods of visual identification. Chrysaora quinquecirrha (Atlantic sea nettle) has progressively become more abundant in Mid-Atlantic United States’ estuaries including Barnegat Bay (New Jersey), potentially having detrimental effects on both marine organisms and human enterprises. Full characterization of this predator's diet is essential for a comprehensive understanding of its impact on the food web and its management. Here, we tested the efficacy of NGS for prey item determination in the Atlantic sea nettle. We implemented a NGS ‘shotgun’ approach to randomly sequence DNA fragments isolated from gut lavages and gastric pouch/tentacle picks of eight and 84 sea nettles, respectively. These results were verified by visual identification and co-occurring plankton tows. Over 550 000 contigs were assembled from ~110 million paired-end reads. Of these, 100 contigs were confidently assigned to 23 different taxa, including soft-bodied organisms previously undocumented as prey species, including copepods, fish, ctenophores, anemones, amphipods, barnacles, shrimp, polychaete worms, flukes, flatworms, echinoderms, gastropods, bivalves and hemichordates. Our results not only indicate that a ‘shotgun’ NGS approach can supplement visual identification methods, but targeted enrichment of a specific amplicon/gene is not a prerequisite for identifying Atlantic sea nettle prey items.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6248-6266
Number of pages19
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016



  • Chrysaora quinquecirrha
  • gut content
  • jellyfish diet
  • next-generation sequencing

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