Primer Designs for Identification and Environmental DNA (eDNA) Detection of Gars

Nicole J. Farley, Adrian A. Vasquez, Richard Kik, Solomon R. David, Arjun S. Katailiha, Xavier N. Walker, Jeffrey L. Ram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Gars (family Lepisosteidae) play important roles as apex predators in freshwater ecosystems, helping to balance fish populations. Several gar species are exploited as food and game fish, and some species are classified as vulnerable due to habitat loss. New molecular techniques to detect, monitor, and identify environmental DNA (eDNA) from gars might help inform management and conservation efforts for these interesting fish. The goal of this project was to develop and test PCR primers for gars, using specimens of all seven gar species, which are on exhibit at the Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit, Michigan. Focusing on the mitochondrial gene for cytochrome oxidase I, we first designed primers to amplify DNA from all species of gars (“universal gar primers”) and confirmed their specificity in silico. These primers amplified DNA from all seven species, and species identities were confirmed by sequencing the PCR products. Only one of the three ostensibly Shortnose Gar Lepisosteus platostomus specimens sampled exhibited a Shortnose Gar matriline; two other specimens may be Longnose Gar L. osseus × Shortnose Gar hybrids. Genus-targeted primers were developed that amplified all Atractosteus species and two of four Lepisosteus species. Species-specific primers were developed for Longnose Gar, Shortnose Gar, and Tropical Gar Atractosteus tropicus. A primer set that targeted Alligator Gar A. spatula also amplified DNA from Cuban Gar A. tristocheus, but not other species. While the universal gar primers followed by sequencing confirmed the identities of all seven gar species at the Belle Isle Aquarium, PCR with the species-specific primers enabled direct detection of the presence of DNA from the targeted species in the water in which those species had been maintained. Designing these primers is the first step in developing eDNA markers for gars, which in turn could inform the conservation and management of gar populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-695
Number of pages9
JournalTransactions of the American Fisheries Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Fisheries Society


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