Volume 13 Issue 1
Mar.  2022
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Bin Wang, Yun Li, Guiquan Zhang, Jian Yang, Cao Deng, Haoyu Hu, Long Zhang, Xiaoqin Xu, Caiquan Zhou. 2022: Seasonal variations in the plant diet of the Chinese Monal revealed by fecal DNA metabarcoding analysis. Avian Research, 13(1): 100034. doi: 10.1016/j.avrs.2022.100034
Citation: Bin Wang, Yun Li, Guiquan Zhang, Jian Yang, Cao Deng, Haoyu Hu, Long Zhang, Xiaoqin Xu, Caiquan Zhou. 2022: Seasonal variations in the plant diet of the Chinese Monal revealed by fecal DNA metabarcoding analysis. Avian Research, 13(1): 100034. doi: 10.1016/j.avrs.2022.100034

Seasonal variations in the plant diet of the Chinese Monal revealed by fecal DNA metabarcoding analysis

doi: 10.1016/j.avrs.2022.100034
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  • The Chinese Monal (Lophophorus lhuysii) is an alpine-obligate galliform species of global conservation priority. It has been listed as a first class protected wildlife species in China, requiring conservation actions during the 14th Five-Year Plan period. However, the diet composition of Chinese Monal and its seasonal variations have rarely been studied, constraining the effective conservation of the species. Here, we investigated the plant diet composition of the Chinese Monal and its seasonal variations using a DNA metabarcoding approach on fecal samples. We collected 190 fecal samples of the Chinese Monals from the central Qionglai Mountains located in China, and analyzed the plant diet of this species using a DNA metabarcoding approach. Taxonomic profiling of higher plants in the fecal samples was performed using the second internal transcribed spacer (ITS2) amplicon. Downstream analyses, including rarefaction curves, nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) and permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMANOVA), were used to explore the seasonal variations in diet composition. The Chinese Monal foraged a wide range of plant recipes composed of 35 families and 83 genera throughout the year, with Brassicaceae, Apiaceae, and Poaceae as the dominant families, and Cardamine as the dominant genus. The species consumed plants from 62 genera from 28 families during the breeding season (n ​= ​81) and 66 genera from 31 families during the non-breeding season (n ​= ​109). Further, the plant diet composition significantly varied between the breeding and non-breeding seasons, especially for the frequency of occurrence and relative read abundances at genus level. Our study analyzed the plant diet of the Chinese Monal at a high resolution for the first time, and the results revealed that the seasonal variations in its plant diet composition was adapted to plant phenology and foraging strategy. Fritillaria species, a previously confirmed important food resource for the Chinese Monal, were not detected in any fecal samples, potentially due to overharvesting of Fritillaria bulbs for Traditional Chinese Medicine. Therefore, we highly recommend further restriction of herb gathering in Chinese Monal habitats to facilitate the conservation of this endangered species. Altogether, our study enriches essential ecological information for the Chinese Monal and also provides insights into conservation management for this endangered species.


  • 1 These authors contributed equally to this work.
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