Deciphering the diet of a wandering spider (Phoneutria boliviensis; Araneae: Ctenidae) by DNA metabarcoding of gut contents
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Arachnids are the most abundant land predators. Despite the importance of their functional roles as predators and the necessity to understand their diet for conservation, the trophic ecology of many arachnid species has not been sufficiently studied. In the case of the wandering spider, Phoneutria boliviensis F. O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1897, only field and laboratory observational studies on their diet exist. By using a DNA metabarcoding approach, we compared the prey found in the gut content of males and females from three distant Colombian populations of P. boliviensis. By DNA metabarcoding of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI), we detected and identified 234 prey items (individual captured by the spider) belonging to 96 operational taxonomic units (OTUs), as prey for this wandering predator. Our results broaden the known diet of P. boliviensis with at least 75 prey taxa not previously registered in fieldwork or laboratory experimental trials. These results suggest that P. boliviensis feeds predominantly on invertebrates (Diptera, Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, and Orthoptera) and opportunistically on small squamates. Intersex and interpopulation differences were also observed. Assuming that prey preference does not vary between populations, these differences are likely associated with a higher local prey availability. Finally, we suggest that DNA metabarcoding can be used for evaluating subtle differences in the diet of distinct populations of P. boliviensis, particularly when predation records in the field cannot be established or quantified using direct observation.