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Authors: Segers, Francisca H. I. D.
Kaltenpoth, Martin
Foitzik, Susanne
Title: Abdominal microbial communities in ants depend on colony membership rather than caste and are linked to colony productivity
Online publication date: 12-Mar-2020
Language: english
Abstract: Gut bacteria aid their host in digestion and pathogen defense, and bacterial communities that differ in diversity or composition may vary in their ability to do so. Typically, the gut microbiomes of animals living in social groups converge as members share a nest environment and frequently interact. Social insect colonies, however, consist of individuals that differ in age, physiology, and behavior, traits that could affect gut communities or that expose the host to different bacteria, potentially leading to variation in the gut microbiome within colonies. Here we asked whether bacterial communities in the abdomen of Temnothorax nylanderi ants, composed largely of the gut microbiome, differ between different reproductive and behavioral castes. We compared microbiomes of queens, newly eclosed workers, brood carers, and foragers by high-throughput 16S rRNA sequencing. Additionally, we sampled individuals from the same colonies twice, in the field and after 2 months of laboratory housing. To disentangle the effects of laboratory environment and season on microbial communities, additional colonies were collected at the same location after 2 months. There were no large differences between ant castes, although queens harbored more diverse microbial communities than workers. Instead, we found effects of colony, environment, and season on the abdominal microbiome. Interestingly, colonies with more diverse communities had produced more brood. Moreover, the queens' microbiome composition was linked to egg production. Although long-term coevolution between social insects and gut bacteria has been repeatedly evidenced, our study is the first to find associations between abdominal microbiome characteristics and colony productivity in social insects.
DDC: 570 Biowissenschaften
570 Life sciences
Institution: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Department: FB 10 Biologie
Place: Mainz
URN: urn:nbn:de:hebis:77-publ-595890
Version: Published version
Publication type: Zeitschriftenaufsatz
License: CC BY
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Journal: Ecology and evolution
Pages or article number: 13450
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Publisher place: S.l.
Issue date: 2019
ISSN: 2045-7758
Publisher URL:
Publisher DOI: 10.1002/ece3.5801
Appears in collections:JGU-Publikationen

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