Title

Composition, Structure and Diversity of Soil Bacterial Communities before, during and after Transit through the Gut of the Earthworm

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

5-13-2022

Journal

Microorganisms

Volume

10

Issue

5

DOI

10.3390/microorganisms10051025

Keywords

alpha diversity; earthworm cast; earthworm microbiome; gut transit; metacommunity; soil microbiome

Abstract

Earthworms heavily modify the soil microbiome as it passes throughout their guts. However, there are no detailed studies describing changes in the composition, structure and diversity of soil microbiomes during gut transit and once they are released back to the soil as casts. To address this knowledge gap, we used 16S rRNA next-generation sequencing to characterize the microbiomes of soil, gut and casts from the earthworm . We also studied whether these three microbiomes are clearly distinct in composition or can be merged into metacommunities. A large proportion of bacteria was unique to each microbiome-soil (82%), gut (89%) and casts (75%), which indicates that the soil microbiome is greatly modified during gut transit. The three microbiomes also differed in alpha diversity, which peaked during gut transit and decreased in casts. Furthermore, gut transit also modified the structure of the soil microbiome, which clustered away from those of the earthworm gut and cast samples. However, this clustering pattern was not supported by metacommunity analysis, which indicated that soil and gut samples make up one metacommunity and cast samples another. These results have important implications for understanding the dynamics of soil microbial communities and nutrient cycles.

Department

Biostatistics and Bioinformatics

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