Data_Sheet_1_Metabarcoding Insights Into the Trophic Behavior and Identity of Intertidal Benthic Foraminifera.PDF

Foraminifera are ubiquitous marine protists with an important role in the benthic carbon cycle. However, morphological observations often fail to resolve their exact taxonomic placement and there is a lack of field studies on their particular trophic preferences. Here, we propose the application of metabarcoding as a tool for the elucidation of the in situ feeding behavior of benthic foraminifera, while also allowing the correct taxonomic assignment of the feeder, using the V9 region of the 18S (small subunit; SSU) rRNA gene. Living foraminiferal specimens were collected from two intertidal mudflats of the Wadden Sea and DNA was extracted from foraminiferal individuals and from the surrounding sediments. Molecular analysis allowed us to confirm that our foraminiferal specimens belong to three genetic types: Ammonia sp. T6, Elphidium sp. S5 and Haynesina sp. S16. Foraminiferal intracellular eukaryote communities reflected to an extent those of the surrounding sediments but at different relative abundances. Unlike sediment eukaryote communities, which were largely determined by the sampling site, foraminiferal intracellular eukaryote communities were driven by foraminiferal species, followed by sediment depth. Our data suggests that Ammonia sp. T6 can predate on metazoan classes, whereas Elphidium sp. S5 and Haynesina sp. S16 are more likely to ingest diatoms. These observations, alongside the use of metabarcoding in similar ecological studies, significantly contribute to our overall understanding of the ecological roles of these protists in intertidal benthic environments and their position and function in the benthic food webs.