Studying predator-prey interactions is essential if we want to understand structure and functioning of ecosystems. Food webs of belowground systems however are difficult to examine as they encompass a variety of minute organism, fluid feeders and generalist predators in an inaccessible habitat. Novel approaches such as molecular gut content analysis can unravel these linkages by detection of prey DNA in a predator's gut using species or group specific PCR assays. Thus, we can identify key prey taxa and assess the impact of different predators on the prey community.
My studies focus on analysing belowground food webs in forests of three different regions across Germany, which form part of the Biodiversity Exploratories project (www.biodiversity-exploratories.de). I am interested in studying prey preferences of generalist predators such as centipedes and staphylinid beetles and evaluate the importance of different prey such as collembolans, earthworms and dipterans across a landuse gradient. Furthermore we will develop PCR assays to identify prey of mesofaunal consumers such as collembolans and predatory mites.
In combination with stable istope analysis and fatty acid analysis, which both can track nutrient flow and display long-term prey choice we are able to illustrate whole food webs with unprecedented detail and resolution.
- Eitzinger B, Unger EM, Traugott M, Scheu S (2014) Effects of prey quality and predator body size on prey DNA detection success in a centipede predator. Molecular Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/mec.12654, in press
- Günther B, Rall BC, Ferlian, O, Scheu S, Eitzinger B (2013) Variations in prey consumption of centipede predators in forest soils as indicated by molecular gut content analysis. Oikos, DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2013.00868.x, in press
- Eitzinger B, Micic A, Körner M, Traugott M and Scheu S (2013) Unveiling soil food web links: New PCR assays for detection of prey DNA in the gut of soil arthropod predators. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 57, 943-945
- Eitzinger, B. and Traugott, M. (2011) Which prey sustains cold-adapted invertebrate generalist predators in arable land? Examining prey choices by molecular gut-content analysis. Journal of Applied Ecology 48(3), 591-599