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The complex epistemological challenge of data curation in dietary metabarcoding: Comment on “The precautionary principle and dietary DNA metabarcoding: Commonly used abundance thresholds change ecological interpretation” by Littleford-Colquhoun et al. (2022)

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jordan CuffORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2022.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


In their article, Littleford-Colquhoun et al. (2022) advise against using arbitrary relative read abundance (RRA) thresholds (i.e., minimum sequence copy thresholds) for removing low-abundance sequences since they can increase false negative rates in dietary DNA metabarcoding data sets. The main criticisms presented against these widespread methods are that they (i) are arbitrary, often existing as standard values or defined based on researcher-selected delineations, (ii) are subjective, varying between studies and contexts, and, most problematically, (iii) result in the exclusion of true positives, particularly rarely consumed taxa, to the detriment of ecological insight. We commend the authors for presenting a refreshing and timely perspective on this often neglected topic, which is certainly in need of greater discussion following over a decade of significant advances in dietary metabarcoding. In this complex epistemological problem of false positives versus false negatives, we feel that several of the points raised deserve additional discussion. We address these aspects below, including measured approaches to data filtration and consistent representation of RRAs, and we welcome any further discourse to solidify or refute the concepts therein.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tercel MPTG, Cuff JP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Molecular Ecology

Year: 2022

Volume: 31

Issue: 22

Pages: 5653-5659

Print publication date: 07/11/2022

Online publication date: 02/07/2022

Acceptance date: 10/06/2022

Date deposited: 14/07/2022

ISSN (print): 0962-1083

ISSN (electronic): 1365-294X

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/mec.16576

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/m7pe-8n24


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