Why care about diet? The diet of animals determines their ability to grow, fight off disease, and reproduce.
Diet is a conservation issue. Many rare species from birds to bison rely seasonally on unique plant species. Reductions in these plant species can limit the populations of these animals. A given herbivore can depend on over a hundred plant species over a year.
Diet is a biocontrol issue. Many potentially harmful species are kept in check by the insect or mammalian herbivores. Many others could be with the right screening research.
Diet is an economic issue. Plants provide critical resources for animal weight gain and reproduction that determine economic returns.
What we can do. We can quantitatively reconstruct the diet of herbivores, omnivores, and certain carnivores. We take care of everything from DNA extraction to bioinformatics. We can quantify abundances of plants, invertebrates, fungi, and vertebrates in the diet of animals.
How we do it. When animals eat, not all of the DNA in their diet is fully digested before being fecal matter. DNA in fecal material is PCR-amplified and sequenced. The sequences are compared to a proprietary database of sequences for likely species the animals might be eating. A list is then generated of the proportion of the diet that is represented by each species. Reconstruction are based on a minimum of 1000 sequences per sample.
What we provide. After sequencing and bioinformatics is complete, we provide customers with two spreadsheets. The first spreadsheet reports the percentages of the sequences for a sample that belong to each operational taxonomic unit (OTU–unique sequence). The second spreadsheet provides a list of the species that match to each OTU. Customers will then need to match each OTU with probable species that their animals were eating.