Soils contain highly diverse communities of microorganisms and invertebrates. The trophic interactions between these species are largely unknown. Collembolans form an abundant part of the invertebrate community in soils. A prevailing view is that soil collembolans are generalist feeders on fungi, lichens, fragmented litter and bacteria. However, in laboratory food choice experiments, it has been shown that collembolans preferentially select certain taxa of fungi. To examine this apparent contradiction, we developed a molecular technique based on the analysis of 18S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) sequences to explore the diversity of fungi in soils and in the guts of collembolans. We report that the diversity of fungi found in the natural soil was 33 times higher than that in the guts of the collembolan Protaphorura armata. The data support the view that collembolan species can be highly selective when foraging on fungi in soils.
collembolan food selection soil food web ribosomal DNA fungi