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Disentangling the assembly mechanisms of ant cuticular bacterial communities of two Amazonian ant species sharing a common arboreal nest

Citation

Birer, Caroline et al. (2020), Disentangling the assembly mechanisms of ant cuticular bacterial communities of two Amazonian ant species sharing a common arboreal nest, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.wh70rxwjn

Abstract

Bacteria living on the cuticle of ants are generally studied for their protective role against pathogens, especially in the clade of fungus-growing ants. However, little is known of the diversity of cuticular bacteria in other ant host species, as well as of the mechanisms leading to the composition of these communities. Here, we used 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing to study the influence of host species, species interactions, and the pool of bacteria from the environment on the assembly of cuticular bacterial communities on two phylogenetically distant Amazonian ant species that frequently nest together inside the roots system of epiphytic plants, Camponotus femoratus and Crematogaster levior. Our results show that 1) the vast majority of the bacterial community on the cuticle is shared with the nest, suggesting that most bacteria on the cuticle are acquired through environmental acquisition, 2) 5.2% and 2.0% OTUs are respectively specific to Camponotus femoratus and Crematogaster levior, likely representing their respective core cuticular bacterial community, and 3) 3.6% of OTUs are shared between the two ant species. Additionally, mass spectrometry metabolomics analysis of metabolites on the cuticle of ants, which excludes the detection of cuticular hydrocarbons produced by the host, were conducted to evaluate correlations among bacterial OTUs and m/z ion mass. Although some positive and negative correlations are found, the cuticular chemical composition was weakly species specific which supports that cuticular bacterial communities are prominently environmentally acquired. Overall, our results suggest that the environment is the dominant source of bacteria found on the cuticle of ants.

Funding

Agence Nationale de la Recherche, Award: ANR‐10‐LABX‐25‐01