a1 Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Post Box 7803, 5020 Bergen, Norway
a2 Cardiff School of Biosciences, Biomedical Sciences Building, Cardiff University, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX, UK
The invasive Iberian slug, Arion lusitanicus, is spreading through Europe and poses a major threat to horticulture and agriculture. Natural enemies, capable of killing A. lusitanicus, may be important to our understanding of its population dynamics in recently invaded regions. We used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to study predation on A. lusitanicus by carabid beetles in the field. A first multiplex PCR was developed, incorporating species-specific primers, and optimised in order to amplify parts of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) gene of large Arion slugs, including A. lusitanicus from the gut contents of the predators. A second multiplex PCR, targeting 12S rRNA mtDNA, detected predation on smaller Arion species and the field slug Deroceras reticulatum. Feeding trials were conducted to measure the effects of digestion time on amplicon detectability. The median detection times (the time at which 50% of samples tested positive) for A. lusitanicus and D. reticulatum DNA in the foreguts of Carabus nemoralis were 22 h and 20 h, respectively. Beetle activity-densities were monitored using pitfall traps, and slug densities were estimated using quadrats. Predation rates on slugs in the field by C. nemoralis in spring ranged from 16–39% (beetles positive for slug DNA) and were density dependent, with numbers of beetles testing positive being positively correlated with densities of the respective slug species. Carabus nemoralis was shown to be a potentially important predator of the alien A. lusitanicus in spring and may contribute to conservation biological control.
(Accepted January 18 2011)
(Online publication February 23 2011)
p1 Current address: School of Biosciences, Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QD, UK
p2 Current address: Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway