Molecular approaches for studying root herbivores
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The use of molecular techniques in insect ecology has expanded rapidly, allowing ever more challenging questions to be addressed. Compared to their aboveground equivalents, root herbivore molecular ecology has received less attention, despite essentially the same ecological questions being of importance in both the above- and belowground ecosystems. Studies so far have concentrated on economically important taxa, using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequencing and a variety of markers to investigate the species identity and relationships, population dynamics and dispersal, distribution, feeding behaviour and interactions with other organisms. Although this has proved useful for elucidating these aspects of their ecology, there remains a need to focus on the functioning of root herbivores in the soil ecosystem. Application of new and emerging technologies developed for aboveground systems will increasingly be applied to those belowground, allowing a focus on root herbivore biology and ecology in the context of ecosystem processes and systems ecology. For the foreseeable future, however, the use of molecular techniques is likely to remain dominated by the need to address pragmatic research questions about specific taxa, notably pests. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
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