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Flies and camera traps work hand in hand

It has now been >8 years that we have been sampling flies. We have used them to monitor mammals (Calvignac-Spencer et al. 2013; Schubert et al. 2015; Hoffmann et al. 2018) and mammal-infecting microbial agents (Hoffmann et al. 2016), including a couple of very nasty pathogens (Hoffmann et al. 2017; Gogarten et al. 2019). While already useful, flies are still a young tool about which much remains to be characterized. With a new paper published today in Environmental DNA, we move another step towards a better understanding of fly-based mammal monitoring by explicitly comparing this approach to camera trapping, a more established method. For this, we took advantage of a large effort aimed at characterizing wild chimp habitats throughout their range - the Pan African Programme: the Cultured Chimpanzee. The PanAf has implemented camera traps at many sites in sub-Saharan Africa; we have piggy-backed this great initiative by adding sampling flies to their volunteers' to-do-list. The comparison of fly metabarcoding and camera trap results show that both approaches are complementary, each seemingly addressing a different component of local mammalian alpha diversity. The two approaches also captured similar beta diversity signals across sites. We suggest that capturing flies when setting camera traps could be a relatively effortless way to collect useful biological material for the future, even where projects have yet not budgeted metabarcoding analyses. Read the story in full there.

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