Gnathiid isopods are common ectoparasites of fish on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. While screening for appropriate markers for phylogenetic studies of gnathiids, we found that primers for 12S and 16S rDNA preferentially amplified the host fish DNA instead of gnathiid DNA. This amplification occurred even when using gnathiids that were not engorged with host blood and adult gnathiids that do not feed on fish blood. This method could be used in host–parasite studies to identify hosts without having to sample parasites directly from the host (which can be costly and requires considerable skill in a marine environment). Target ribosomal DNA sequences can be amplified from total DNA extracted from parasites that are captured in funnel traps or plankton tows. Sequence data from these can be used to identify the hosts that gnathiids were feeding on before capture.

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