Bdellovibrio-and-like organisms (BALOs) are widespread obligatory predators of other Gram-negative bacteria. Their detection by culture-dependent methods is complicated as their replication is totally dependent upon the availability of an appropriate prey. Because BALOs do not form numerically dominant groups within microbial communities, non-specific culture-independent tools also generally fail to detect them. We designed sets of 16S rRNA primers that specifically target BALOs. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) were combined, yielding partial 16S rDNA sequences. This simple method that allows specific in situ culture-independent detection of BALOs was applied to the soil environment. Bdellovibrio-and-like organisms were also isolated from the same soil and the phylogeny and prey range of the isolates analysed. Seventeen isolates retrieved using five different potential preys exhibited eight different spectra of prey utilization and formed nine operational taxonomic units (OTUs). These OTUs were affiliated with the Bdellovibrionaceae, Bacteriovorax, Peredibacter or Micavibrio, i.e. the known BALO groups. In comparison, 15 OTUs including 10 that were not detected by the culture-dependent approach were obtained using the specific primers in a PCR-DGGE approach. The occurrence of a complex BALO community suggests that predation occurs on a much wider range of prey than can be detected by the classical culture-dependent technique.