Open Access Methodology article

Environmental DNA sequencing primers for eutardigrades and bdelloid rotifers

Michael S Robeson1*, Elizabeth K Costello2, Kristen R Freeman1, Jeremy Whiting3, Byron Adams3, Andrew P Martin1 and Steve K Schmidt1

Author Affiliations

1 University of Colorado, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Ramaley N122, Campus Box 334, Boulder, CO 80309-0334, USA

2 University of Colorado, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, 215 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0334, USA

3 Brigham Young University, Department Biology and Evolutionary Ecology Laboratories, 775 WIDB, Provo, UT 84602-5253 USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Ecology 2009, 9:25  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-9-25

Published: 11 December 2009



The time it takes to isolate individuals from environmental samples and then extract DNA from each individual is one of the problems with generating molecular data from meiofauna such as eutardigrades and bdelloid rotifers. The lack of consistent morphological information and the extreme abundance of these classes makes morphological identification of rare, or even common cryptic taxa a large and unwieldy task. This limits the ability to perform large-scale surveys of the diversity of these organisms.

Here we demonstrate a culture-independent molecular survey approach that enables the generation of large amounts of eutardigrade and bdelloid rotifer sequence data directly from soil. Our PCR primers, specific to the 18s small-subunit rRNA gene, were developed for both eutardigrades and bdelloid rotifers.


The developed primers successfully amplified DNA of their target organism from various soil DNA extracts. This was confirmed by both the BLAST similarity searches and phylogenetic analyses. Tardigrades showed much better phylogenetic resolution than bdelloids. Both groups of organisms exhibited varying levels of endemism.


The development of clade-specific primers for characterizing eutardigrades and bdelloid rotifers from environmental samples should greatly increase our ability to characterize the composition of these taxa in environmental samples. Environmental sequencing as shown here differs from other molecular survey methods in that there is no need to pre-isolate the organisms of interest from soil in order to amplify their DNA. The DNA sequences obtained from methods that do not require culturing can be identified post-hoc and placed phylogenetically as additional closely related sequences are obtained from morphologically identified conspecifics. Our non-cultured environmental sequence based approach will be able to provide a rapid and large-scale screening of the presence, absence and diversity of Bdelloidea and Eutardigrada in a variety of soils.