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Structure of an ant-myrmecophile-microbe community

Perry, Elena K. and Siozios, Stefanos and Hurst, Gregory D. D. and Parker, Joseph (2021) Structure of an ant-myrmecophile-microbe community. . (Unpublished)

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Superorganismal ant colonies play host to a menagerie of symbiotic arthropods, termed myrmecophiles, which exhibit varying degrees of social integration into colony life. Such systems permit examination of how animal community interactions influence microbial assemblages. Here, we present an ecologically and phylogenetically comprehensive characterization of an ant-myrmecophile-microbe community in Southern California. Using 16S rRNA profiling, we find that microbiotas of the velvety tree ant (Liometopum occidentale) and its cohort of myrmecophiles are distinguished by species-specific characteristics but nevertheless bear signatures of their behavioral interactions. We found that the host ant microbiome was diverse at all taxonomic levels; that of a myrmecophilous cricket was moderately diverse, while microbiotas of three myrmecophilous rove beetles (Staphylinidae), which have convergently evolved symbiosis with Liometopum, were dominated by intracellular endosymbionts. Yet, despite these compositional differences, similarities between ant and myrmecophile microbiotas correlated with the nature and intimacy of their behavioral relationships. Physical interactions such as grooming and trophallaxis likely facilitate cross-species extracellular microbial sharing. Further, phylogenetic comparisons of microbiotas from myrmecophile rove beetles and outgroups revealed a lack of co-cladogenesis of beetles and intracellular endosymbionts, and limited evidence for convergence among the myrmecophiles’ intracellular microbiotas. Comparative genomic analyses of the dominant Rickettsia endosymbiont of the most highly socially integrated myrmecophile imply possible functions unrelated to nutrient-provisioning in the host beetle’s specialized lifestyle. Our findings indicate that myrmecophile microbiotas evolve largely independently of the constraints of deep evolutionary history, and that the transition to life inside colonies, including social interactions with hosts, plays a significant role in structuring bacterial assemblages of these symbiotic insects.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Discussion Paper)
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Perry, Elena K.0000-0002-7151-1479
Siozios, Stefanos0000-0002-1104-7061
Hurst, Gregory D. D.0000-0002-7163-7784
Parker, Joseph0000-0001-9598-2454
Additional Information:The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. We thank Clive Turner (UK) for providing living specimens of Pella cognata and Lasius fuliginosus, Tim Struyve (Belgium) for providing Drusilla canaliculata and Julian Wagner (Caltech) for Lissagria laeviuscula. Preliminary stages of this work were facilitated by a seed grant from Caltech's Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions, and we greatly appreciate the support and generosity of Dianne Newman (Caltech) throughout the course of this study. This work was funded by an Army Research Office MURI award, W911NF1910269, to J. Parker. The authors have declared no competing interest.
Group:Caltech Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions (CEMI)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Caltech Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions (CEMI)UNSPECIFIED
Army Research Office (ARO)W911NF1910269
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20211008-224629828
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Structure of an ant-myrmecophile-microbe community Elena K. Perry, Stefanos Siozios, Gregory D. D. Hurst, Joseph Parker bioRxiv 2021.10.04.462948; doi:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:111335
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:11 Oct 2021 21:31
Last Modified:11 Oct 2021 21:31

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