Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Genomic and isotopic approaches reveal mechanisms of persistence in the endemic Hispaniolan solenodon (#337)

Alexis M Mychajliw 1 , Kristine Bohmann 2 , Martin Nielsen 2 , Pedro Martinez 3 , Elizabeth A Hadly 1
  1. Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States
  2. Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. Sociedad Ornitológica de la Hispaniola, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Habitat loss in the form of deforestation and agriculture poses major challenges to species in the Anthropocene. Dietary flexibility has been hypothesised as a mechanism that can promote species survival in transformed habitats. In this study, we test whether dietary flexibility could explain the survival of the Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus) across a variety of land-use types within the Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve. We collected 54 faecal samples across two seasons from a series of forested and mosaic agriculture sites ranging in elevation and human impact. We characterised dietary flexibility through 1) metabarcoding of prey DNA in faeces and 2) stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. We confirmed the validity of isotopic data derived from faeces through comparison with isotopic analysis of hair samples. We applied five molecular markers to account for the taxonomic range of prey consumed by solenodons, including vertebrates, insects, arachnids, and gastropods. The population-level isotopic niche of solenodons is wider than any other known ‘insectivore’, with no significant differences in isotopic niche width between seasons or habitat types. DNA metabarcoding revealed an incredible diversity of prey items utilised by solenodons across habitat types, although all individuals consume millipedes, suggesting millipedes may be an important and abundant resource across altered landscapes. Critically, we address a local human-wildlife conflict concern, showing that solenodons are not predators of poultry and should not be persecuted. Our findings suggest that the evolutionary history of solenodons and their flexible diet may help them persist in areas altered by people such as mosaic agriculture.