1USDA-ARS, Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center; firstname.lastname@example.org.
2USDA-ARS, Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center
Monitoring arthropod movement is often required to better understand associated population dynamics, dispersal patterns, host plant preferences, and other ecological interactions. Arthropods are usually tracked in nature by tagging them with a unique mark and then re-collecting them over time and space to determine their dispersal capabilities. In addition to actual physical tags, such as colored dust or paint, various types of proteins have proven very effective for marking arthropods for ecological research. Proteins can be administered internally and/or externally. The proteins can then be detected on recaptured arthropods with a protein-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Here we describe protocols for externally and internally tagging arthropods with protein. Two simple experimental examples are demonstrated: (1) an internal protein mark introduced to an insect by providing a protein-enriched diet and (2) an external protein mark topically applied to an insect using a medical nebulizer. We then relate a step-by-step guide of the sandwich and indirect ELISA methods used to detect protein marks on the insects. In this demonstration, various aspects of the acquisition and detection of protein markers on arthropods for mark-release-recapture, mark-capture, and self-mark-capture types of research are discussed, along with the various ways that the immunomarking procedure has been adapted to suit a wide variety of research objectives.