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2 May 2023 Diet Analysis of Asian Elephants Using Next-Generation Sequencing
Peng Xiaoxu, Sun Yakuan, Chen Ying, Aliana Norris, Shi Kun
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Understanding the diet composition and preferences of large herbivores not only provides insights into their ecological role, but also helps to assess the viability of elephant populations and their habitats. This study was performed to determine the diet preferences of a small population of Asian elephants in Nangunhe National Nature Reserve in Yunnan, China, during the annual dry season. The next-generation sequencing of the rbcL gene from non-invasively collected fecal samples was conducted in addition to transect surveys and camera-trapping along known elephant trails. With the transect survey, we identified 31 plant species foraged by elephants. The next-generation sequencing analysis identified a total of 90 plant species from the elephant dung samples. Only nine species were detected at rates greater than 1% in all the samples. Poaceae (47.69%), Moraceae (21.25%), and Musaceae (11.24%) were detected to have the highest rates at the family level. We also examined whether differences existed between sexes, age groups, and individuals; however, significant differences were found only between individuals. This study provides useful insights into the foraging preferences of Asian elephants, which could help in further understanding the interactions between elephants and their habitat in the reserve and inform future management decisions in related areas. The detected core plant species with relatively high abundance could provide guidance for habitat restoration and cultivation of food bases. The local plantations where the elephants prefer to feed could be moved farther away, making them inaccessible to the elephants.

Peng Xiaoxu, Sun Yakuan, Chen Ying, Aliana Norris, and Shi Kun "Diet Analysis of Asian Elephants Using Next-Generation Sequencing," Journal of Resources and Ecology 14(3), 616-630, (2 May 2023).
Received: 26 May 2022; Accepted: 9 August 2022; Published: 2 May 2023
Asian elephant
Nangunhe National Nature Reserve
next-generation sequencing
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