Charles Cong Yang Xu, Ivy J Yen, Dean Bowman, Cameron R. Turner
Noninvasive genetic approaches enable biomonitoring without the need to directly observe or disturb target organisms. Environmental DNA (eDNA) methods have recently extended this approach by assaying genetic material within bulk environmental samples without a priori knowledge about the presence of target biological material. This paper describes a novel and promising source of noninvasive spider DNA and insect eDNA from spider webs. Using black widow spiders (Latrodectus spp.) fed with house crickets (Acheta domesticus), we successfully extracted and amplified mitochondrial DNA sequences of both spider and prey from spider web. Detectability of spider DNA did not differ between assays with amplicon sizes from 135 to 497 base pairs. Spider DNA and prey eDNA remained detectable at least 88 days after living organisms were no longer present on the web. Spider web DNA may be an important tool in conservation research, pest management, biogeography studies, and biodiversity assessments.