Modern DNA-based methods provide entirely new insight into the interaction between different species in nature. Researchers can finally reveal the details of who is eating whom, who pollinates what flower and who lives on whose skin or feathers. A special issue of the scientific top journal Molecular Ecology now provides an overview of the state of the art in this field.
Just like the microscope and the telescope opened up new vistas some centuries ago, DNA-based molecular methods are now making it possible to discover whole new worlds. These methods are particularly important for revealing associations between species that are difficult to study by traditional methods, because they are too small, too secretive or too difficult to recognize.
Bats provide a vivid example. Since they hunt at night, it is basically impossible to observe what they are capturing. In the past, researchers had to guess at what they ate as based on small insect fragments in their droppings. MORE
Header image: Bats (here Daubenton’s bat, Myotis daubentonii) illustrate the many secretive species the diet of which can be accurately revealed only by DNA-based techniques. The picture is a collage of multiple exposures by photographer Risto Lindstedt.