Citation Harper K, Anucha NP, Turnbull JF, Bean CW & Leaver MJ (2018) Searching for a signal: Environmental DNA (eDNA) for the detection of invasive signal crayfish, Pacifastacus leniusculus (Dana, 1852). Management of Biological Invasions, 9 (2), pp. 137-148. http://www.reabic.net/journals/mbi/2018/Accepted/MBI_2018_Harper_etal_correctedproof.pdf; https://doi.org/10.3391/mbi.2018.9.2.07
Abstract Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a rapid, non-invasive method for species detection and distribution using DNA deposited in the environment by target organisms. eDNA has become a recognised and powerful tool for detecting invasive species in a broad range of aquatic ecosystems. We examined the use of eDNA as a tool for detecting the invasive American signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus in Scotland. Species-specific TaqMan probe and primers were designed for P. leniusculus and a robust quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay and DNA extraction protocol were developed. We investigated the detection capability for P. leniusculus from water samples in a controlled laboratory experiment and determined whether crayfish density (low = 1 crayfish 5.5 L-1 or high = 3 crayfish 5.5 L-1) or length of time in tanks (samples taken at 1, 3 and 7 days) influenced DNA detectability. Additionally, the persistence of DNA was investigated after P. leniusculus removal (samples taken at 1, 3 and 7 days post removal). P. leniusculus DNA was consistently detected during the entire 7-day period and higher density tanks yielded stronger positive results with lower Ct values. After removal of P. leniusculus, there was a rapid and continuous decrease in the detectability of DNA. P. leniusculus DNA could only be detected in high density tanks by the end of the 7-day period, while DNA was no longer detectable in low density tanks after 72 hours. Preliminary field experiments sampled water from three sites in winter and five sites in summer. P. leniusculus was known to be present at two of these sites. P. leniusculus was not detected at any site in winter. However, in summer, positive signals were observed at sites with known P. leniusculus, and at sites where P. leniusculus was believed to be present anecdotally, but not confirmed. All sites where crayfish were believed to be absent were negative for eDNA. Therefore, eDNA represents a promising technique to detect and monitor invasive P. leniusculus, although the presence of detectable amounts of eDNA may be season and location dependent, even where invasive crayfish are known to be present.