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Gut microbiota of dung beetles correspond to dietary specializations of adults and larvae

Shukla, Shantanu P., Sanders, Jon G., Byrne, Marcus J., Pierce, Naomi E.
Molecular ecology 2016 v.25 no.24 pp. 6092-6106
Euoniticellus intermedius, adults, bacteria, bacterial communities, carbon nitrogen ratio, cellulose, digestive system, dung beetles, eggs, feces, females, genes, intestinal microorganisms, larvae, males, metagenomics, nitrogen fixation, prediction, progeny, ribosomal DNA, sclerotization, vertebrates
Vertebrate dung is central to the dung beetle life cycle, constituting food for adults and a protective and nutritive refuge for their offspring. Adult dung beetles have soft mandibles and feed primarily on nutritionally rich dung particles, while larvae have sclerotized mandibles and consume coarser dung particles with a higher C/N ratio. Here, using the dung beetles Euoniticellus intermedius and E. triangulatus, we show that these morphological adaptations in mandibular structure are also correlated with differences in basic gut structure and gut bacterial communities between dung beetle life stages. Metagenome functional predictions based on 16S rDNA characterization further indicated that larval gut communities are enriched in genes involved in cellulose degradation and nitrogen fixation compared to adult guts. Larval gut communities are more similar to female gut communities than they are to those of males, and bacteria present in maternally provisioned brood balls and maternal ‘gifts’ (secretions deposited in the brood ball along with the egg) are also more similar to larval gut communities than to those of males. Maternal secretions and maternally provisioned brood balls, as well as dung, were important factors shaping the larval gut community. Differences between gut microbiota in the adults and larvae are likely to contribute to differences in nutrient assimilation from ingested dung at different life history stages.