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Insights into fungal communities colonizing the acarosphere in a forest soil habitat

Werner, Sebastian, Peršoh, Derek, Rambold, Gerhard
Mycological progress 2018 v.17 no.9 pp. 1067-1085
Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, DNA barcoding, Zygomycota, biogeochemical cycles, community structure, coniferous forests, forest soils, fungal communities, fungi, microhabitats, mites, organic horizons, organic soils, restriction fragment length polymorphism, saprophytes, soil habitats, temperate zones
Knowledge on the diversity and ecology of microfungi associated with soil-dwelling mites is rather limited. To get insights into associations between the two highly diverse groups, we studied composition and potential function of mite-associated fungal communities occurring in soil. Two different mite species living in temperate region pine forest soil were screened for associated fungi. The fungal community was assessed by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analyses in a predatory (Leptogamasus obesus) and a predominantly saprobic (Oppiella subpectinata) mite species as well as in the organic soil layer. Key fungi were identified by sequencing, and community composition was exemplarily compared between the RFLP and a 454 metabarcoding approach. Composition of the fungal communities differed between mite species and between mites and organic soil layer. The mites were predominantly associated with Zygomycota, less frequently with Ascomycota, and rarely with Basidiomycota. The bulk soil was colonized by roughly equal proportions of the three phyla. Fungal taxa being known to exhibit chitinolytic activity were predominantly restricted to mites. Compositional and functional differences between the communities suggest that mites represent a particular microhabitat for fungi, the “acarosphere.” This mobile habitat may contribute to nutrient cycling by combining fungal and animal decomposition activities and serve as vector for soil-inhabiting fungi.