Background and significance: Zooplankton consists of mostly microscopic animals at the mercy of oceanic currents. These animals, together with phytoplankton, form the base of the marine food web. They may be holoplankton, which spend their entire lives as plankton, or meroplankton, which are temporary residents. Meroplankton are typically larval stages of larger animals such as fish or crustaceans. The Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) has been collecting plankton samples for morphological analysis for over five years. However taxonomic identification via morphological examination does have its difficulties. The taxa being examined must be in good condition and the identification of the larval stages of both holoplankton and meroplankton are problematic for even a skilled taxonomist. This study uses 55 plankton samples collected from Rottnest Island, in Western Australia over 5 years. The aim of the project is to use molecular methods to identify and map changes in taxa over time, and in response to seasonal and temperature variations.
Basic Methodologies: This research applies environmental metabarcoding to characterise the species composition contained within zooplankton communities. Eight primer sets were used, targeting fish, copepods, crustaceans and other zooplankton. The resulting sequences are to be examined taxonomically and then examined as OTUs for an insight into the genetic diversity of the area.
Major Findings: This poster presents data from several million sequences across the 8 primer sets. From only two sets, 60 taxa of fish and 25 crustacean taxa were identified, many to a species level. Data is presented across the 2011 marine heatwave event to explore biotic patterns associated with this thermal anomaly. This ongoing study will, in the near future, be expanded across the Australian IMOS stations and analysed together with other abiotic data to give a broad picture of the planktonic communities and the value of metabarcoding in marine ecosystem monitoring.