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Molecular Characterization of Coprophilous Fungal Communities Reveals Sequences Related to Root-Associated Fungal Endophytes

Herrera, José, Poudel, Ravin, Khidir, Hana H.
Microbial ecology 2011 v.61 no.2 pp. 239-244
Antilocapra americana, Bouteloua gracilis, Cynomys ludovicianus, Neocallimastigales, antelopes, arid zones, bison, cattle, endophytes, feces, forage grasses, fungal communities, fungi, herbivores, national parks, vegetation, wildlife, New Mexico, South Dakota
This paper reports the use of molecular methods to characterize the coprophilous fungal communities (CFC) that inhabit the dung of four species of mammalian herbivores at two sites, Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR) in New Mexico and Wind Cave National Park (WCNP) in South Dakota. Results reveal that CFC from domesticated cattle (Bos taurus) at SNWR, and bison (Bison bison) and black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) at WCNP were diverse but dominated primarily by members within eight taxonomic orders, including the rarely cultured and anaerobic order Neocallimastigales. In addition, 7.7% (138 of 1,788) of the sequences obtained from all dung samples were at least 97% similar to root-associated fungal (RAF) sequences previously described from blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), a common forage grass found throughout North America and growing at both study sites. In contrast, 95.8% (295 of 308) of the sequences and four of the total seven operational taxonomic units obtained from pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) dung belonged to the Pleosporalean order. We hypothesize that some herbivore vectors disperse non-systemic (non-clavicipitaceous) fungal endophytes. These dispersal events, it is argued, are most likely to occur via herbivores that occasionally forage and masticate root tissue, especially in arid regions where aboveground vegetation is sparse. The results of this study suggest that some (possibly many) members of the RAF community can expand their ecological role to include colonizing dung.