Kennedy, Susan R.; Stefan Prost; Isaac Overcast; Andrew J. Rominger; Rosemary G. Gillespie and Henrik Krehenwinkel

Large-scale studies on community ecology are highly desirable but often difficult to accomplish due to the considerable investment of time, labor and, money required to characterize richness, abundance, relatedness, and interactions. Nonetheless, such large-scale perspectives are necessary for understanding the composition, dynamics, and resilience of biological communities. Small invertebrates play a central role in ecosystems, occupying critical positions in the food web and performing a broad variety of ecological functions. However, it has been particularly difficult to adequately characterize communities of these animals because of their exceptionally high diversity and abundance. Spiders in particular fulfill key roles as both predator and prey in terrestrial food webs and are hence an important focus of ecological studies. In recent years, large-scale community analyses have benefitted tremendously from advances in DNA barcoding technology. High-throughput sequencing (HTS), particularly DNA metabarcoding, enables community-wide analyses of diversity and interactions at unprecedented scales and at a fraction of the cost that was previously possible. Here, we review the current state of the application of these technologies to the analysis of spider communities. We discuss amplicon-based DNA barcoding and metabarcoding for the analysis of community diversity and molecular gut content analysis for assessing predator-prey relationships. We also highlight applications of the third generation sequencing technology for long read and portable DNA barcoding. We then address the development of theoretical frameworks for community-level studies, and finally highlight critical gaps and future directions for DNA analysis of spider communities.