Toju H, Baba YG (2018) DNA metabarcoding of spiders, insects, and springtails for exploring potential linkage between above- and below-ground food webs. Zoological Letters 4:4, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40851-018-0088-9.

Understanding feedback between above- and below-ground processes of biological communities is a key to the effective management of natural and agricultural ecosystems. However, as above- and below-ground food webs are often studied separately, our knowledge of material flow and community dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems remains limited.

This study developed a high-throughput sequencing method for examining how spiders link above- and below-ground food webs as generalist predators. To overcome problems related to DNA-barcoding-based analyses of arthropod–arthropod interactions, the research team designed spider-specific blocking primers and Hexapoda-specific primers for the selective PCR amplification of Hexapoda prey sequences from spider samples. By applying the new DNA metabarcoding framework to spider samples collected in a temperate secondary forest in Japan, the study explored the structure of a food web involving 15 spider species and various taxonomic groups of Hexapoda prey. These results support the hypothesis that multiple spider species in a community can prey on both above- and below-ground prey species, potentially coupling above- and below-ground food-web dynamics.

DNA extraction was performed using prepGEM. For samples of body size >5mm, abdomens were dissected and ground before DNA extraction. For smaller samples, whole bodies were ground. Molecular experimental procedures, including DNA extraction, sequencing, and bioinformatics procedures, were completed within a few days, even with hundreds of spider samples.

The high-throughput sequencing procedure described in this study allows fast profiling of predator-prey interactions, ultimately with implications for insect pest controls in the restoration of ecosystems and the management of farmlands.

The samples in this experiment were subjected to DNA extraction using prepGEM.

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