I had studied Biology in Göttingen with focus on animal ecology, nature conservation and microbiology. In April 2011, I finished my diploma thesis investigating centipedes (Chilopoda) and their feeding strategies by means of fatty acid analysis. This is, besides stable isotope analysis and molecular gut content analysis, a novel approach for the investigation of trophic relationships in soil food webs.

Neutral lipids of animals can be utilised to unravel feeding strategies, as some of them are incorporated via food without modification (dietary routing). Further, some fatty acids may originate exclusively from one organism group or are, at least, enriched in one organism group (marker fatty acids), e.g. there are certain fatty acids that indicate bacterial feeding. Recently, fatty acids have been found to be traceable over three trophic levels in the laboratory and may, therefore, reveal the use of basal resources of predators.

In my doctoral thesis I continue dealing with fatty acids in predatory soil arthropods. My analyses complement the snapshot method of molecular gut content analysis of Bernhard Eitzinger . This helps to unravel trophic interactions in soil food webs more reliably. My work is incorporated into the sub-project “LitterLinks” of the DFG-project “Biodiversity Exploratories”. In “LitterLinks” we investigate the effect of land-use on soil fauna communities and densities. We established a trenching-experiment excluding most of the roots from definite areas in order to examine possible faunal changes due to lack of root exudates.

  • Olga Ferlian, Stefan Scheu and Melanie M. Pollierer 2012: Trophic interactions in centipedes (Chilopoda, Myriapoda) as indicated by fatty acid patterns: Variations with life stage, forest age and season. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 52:33-42.