Searching for food is essential for animals and one of the driving forces for niche differentiation, ecological and evolutionary processes. However, most of the trophic interactions are still poorly understood or unknown due the opaqueness of the ?black box? soil, the minute size of the interacting animals which are often liquid feeding generalists. Especially nematodes are still an understudied prey group in soil food webs, and the dietary range of its potential microarthropod predators is also little known. Novel approaches such as molecular gut content analysis and next generation sequencing can detect such neglected predator-prey interactions.

My main research interest is the better understanding of predator-prey interactions of soil animals.
My studies focus on the role of nematodes as prey for soil microarthropods (mites and collembolans) using molecular gut content analysis. Furthermore, I investigate factors influencing the nematode-microarthropod interaction such as the habitat structure, temperature, humidity, season, prey defence mechanisms or prey density. My studies are part of the Biodiversity Exploratories project (

Current projects

- The design of new molecular markers for fungal- feeding nematode taxa to study their role as prey and as link in the fungal based energy channel.
- Establishment of washing protocols to clean animals from attached organisms before molecular analysis of fungal or bacterial prey.
- Studying the dietary range of microarthropods by using next generation sequencing technologies and bioinformatic analyses.
- Investigating the role of nematodes as prey for soil mites in deciduous and coniferous forests and their variation between microhabitats.
- Studying the effect of root exclusion via trenching to study the effect on consumption of bacterial-feeding nematodes by microarthropods.


5) Gong, X., Chen, T.-W., Zieger, S. L., Bluhm, C., Heidemann, K., Schaefer, I., Maraun, M., Liu, M., Scheu, S (2018) Phylogenetic and trophic determinants of gut microbiota in soil oribatid mites.
Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 123, 155-164.
4) Heidemann, K., Ruess, L., Scheu, S., Maraun, M. (2014) Nematode consumption by mite communities varies in different forest microhabitats as indicated by molecular gut content analysis. Experimental & Applied Acarology, 64, 49-60.
3) Heidemann, K., Hennies, A., Schakowske, J., Blumenberg, L., Ruess, L., Scheu, S., Maraun, M. (2014) Free-living nematodes as prey for higher trophic levels of forest soil food webs. Oikos, 123, 1199-1211.
2) Heidemann, K., Scheu, S., Ruess, L., Maraun, M. (2011) Molecular detection of nematode predation and scavenging in oribatid mites: Laboratory and field experiments. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 43, 2229-2236.
1) Peschel, K., Norton, R.A., Scheu, S., Maraun, M. (2006) Do oribatid mites live in enemy-free space? Evidence from feeding experiments with the predatory mite Pergamasus septentrionalis. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 38, 2985-2989.