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Leech-derived iDNA complements traditional surveying methods, enhancing species detections for rapid biodiversity sampling in the tropics
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  • Mai Fahmy,
  • Dina Andrianoely,
  • Patricia Wright,
  • Evon Hekkala
Mai Fahmy

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Dina Andrianoely
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Patricia Wright
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Evon Hekkala
Fordham University
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Deforestation, exploitation, and other drivers of biodiversity loss in Madagascar leave its highly endangered and predominantly endemic wildlife at risk of extinction. Decreasing biodiversity threatens to compromise ecosystem functions and vital services provided to people. New, economical, and diverse methods of biodiversity monitoring can help to establish reliable baseline and long-term records of species richness. Metabarcoding with invertebrate-derived DNA (iDNA) has emerged as a promising new biosurveillance tool. An unexpected wet forest fragment tucked in the cliffs of Madagascar’s southcentral plateau, the Ivohibory Protected Area (IPA), hosts a unique mosaic of species diversity, featuring both dry and wet forest species. Recently elevated to protected status, the IPA has been surveyed for flora and fauna with a range of inventory methods over the course of three years and six expeditions (2016, 2017, & 2019). We collected 1,451 leeches over 12 days from the IPA to supplement known species richness and to compare my results against current records. With iDNA, we followed a tissue pooling protocol for isolation and amplification of bloodmeal DNA with five sets of primers. We detected 20 species of which four are species of frogs previously undetected and three of which are previously unknown to exist in this region. iDNA surveys have the capacity to provide complementary data to traditional surveying methods like camera traps, line transects, and bioacoustic methods.