Examining the diet of caterpillars can be a challenging task, especially in less known ecosystems such as the tropics. As a result, very few studies have been conducted so far focusing on the relationships of tropical lepidopteran larvae with the plants they eat. Fortunately, our DNA metabarcoding technology is perfectly suited to examine the food range of tropical lepidopterans by means of genetic analysis of their intestinal contents. For example, scientists at the Zoological State Collection in Munich used this technology in a recent study to examine the host-plant relationships of tropical moths (see Hausmann et al. 2020, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0224188).
By means of DNA metabarcoding, our team is able to analyze gut contents as well as specify the caterpillar species anywhere in the world – even right in front of our doorsteps, where we find many agricultural and forestry pests. In order to preserve our biodiversity, it is very important to be able to understand different life stages of animals, what they eat, as well as how food webs change throughout the year.