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Function of bacterial community dynamics in the formation of cadaveric semiochemicals during in situ carcass decomposition

Pascual, Javier, von Hoermann, Christian, Rottler‐Hoermann, Ann‐Marie, Nevo, Omer, Geppert, Alicia, Sikorski, Johannes, Huber, Katharina J., Steiger, Sandra, Ayasse, Manfred, Overmann, Jörg
Environmental microbiology 2017 v.19 no.8 pp. 3310-3322
Enterobacteriaceae, Xanthomonadaceae, acetic acid, bacteria, bacterial communities, chemical ecology, dead animals, forensic sciences, forest ecosystems, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, insects, metabolism, microbial activity, phenol, piglets, regression analysis, ribosomal RNA, semiochemicals, stochastic processes, volatile organic compounds
The decomposition of dead mammalian tissue involves a complex temporal succession of epinecrotic bacteria. Microbial activity may release different cadaveric volatile organic compounds which in turn attract other key players of carcass decomposition such as scavenger insects. To elucidate the dynamics and potential functions of epinecrotic bacteria on carcasses, we monitored bacterial communities developing on still‐born piglets incubated in different forest ecosystems by combining high‐throughput Illumina 16S rRNA sequencing with gas chromatography‐mass spectrometry of volatiles. Our results show that the community structure of epinecrotic bacteria and the types of cadaveric volatile compounds released over the time course of decomposition are driven by deterministic rather than stochastic processes. Individual cadaveric volatile organic compounds were correlated with specific taxa during the first stages of decomposition which are dominated by bacteria. Through best‐fitting multiple linear regression models, the synthesis of acetic acid, indole and phenol could be linked to the activity of Enterobacteriaceae, Tissierellaceae and Xanthomonadaceae, respectively. These conclusions are also commensurate with the metabolism described for the dominant taxa identified for these families. The predictable nature of in situ synthesis of cadaveric volatile organic compounds by epinecrotic bacteria provides a new basis for future chemical ecology and forensic studies.