Leech blood-meal invertebrate-derived DNA reveals differences in Bornean mammal diversity across habitats

Rosie Drinkwater*, Tommaso Jucker, Joshua H.T. Potter, Tom Swinfield, David A. Coomes, Eleanor M. Slade, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Owen T. Lewis, Henry Bernard, Matthew J. Struebig, Elizabeth L. Clare, Stephen J. Rossiter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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The application of metabarcoding to environmental and invertebrate-derived DNA (eDNA and iDNA) is a new and increasingly applied method for monitoring biodiversity across a diverse range of habitats. This approach is particularly promising for sampling in the biodiverse humid tropics, where rapid land-use change for agriculture means there is a growing need to understand the conservation value of the remaining mosaic and degraded landscapes. Here we use iDNA from blood-feeding leeches (Haemadipsa picta) to assess differences in mammalian diversity across a gradient of forest degradation in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. We screened 557 individual leeches for mammal DNA by targeting fragments of the 16S rRNA gene and detected 14 mammalian genera. We recorded lower mammal diversity in the most heavily degraded forest compared to higher quality twice logged forest. Although the accumulation curves of diversity estimates were comparable across these habitat types, diversity was higher in twice logged forest, with more taxa of conservation concern. In addition, our analysis revealed differences between the community recorded in the heavily logged forest and that of the twice logged forest. By revealing differences in mammal diversity across a human-modified tropical landscape, our study demonstrates the value of iDNA as a noninvasive biomonitoring approach in conservation assessments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology
Early online date10 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Sabah Biodiversity Council for permission to conduct fieldwork in Sabah (access and export permits for 2016/2017: JKM/MBS.1000‐2/2 (34) JKM/MBS.1000‐2/3 JLD.2 (107) and JKM/MBS.1000‐2/3 JLD.3 (44)). We also thank the Danum Valley Conservation Area for allowing permission to conduct research (YS/DVMC/2016/253) and Yayasan Sabah, the Sabah Forestry Department and Benta Wawasan for access to field sites. For assistance in the field, we thank all LOMBOK research assistants, the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) project, Sime Darby and the South East Asian Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP). For help in the laboratory, we are grateful to staff at the Bart's and the London Genome Centre (Queen Mary University of London) and the Danish National High‐Throughput Sequencing Centre (University of Copenhagen). For advice on laboratory and analytical procedures, we thank Ida Bærholm Schnell, Kristine Bohmann and Martin Nielsen. We thank Joseph Williamson and Jan Gogarten for advice on analyses, and Mark Siddall, Jan Gogarten, Andreas Wilting and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This study was funded by Natural Environment Research Council's Human Modified Tropical Forests (HTMF) Programme (NE/K016148/1), with additional support from a Study Abroad Studentship awarded to R.D. by The Leverhulme Trust (SAS‐ 2016‐100). T.J. was supported by a UK NERC Independent Research Fellowship (Grant No. NE/S01537X/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Molecular Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • biodiversity
  • Borneo
  • Haemadipsidae
  • invertebrate-derived DNA
  • land-use change
  • molecular biomonitoring


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