Privatization of a breeding resource by the burying beetle /Nicrophorus vespilloides/ is associated with shifts in bacterial communities

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Ana DuarteRebecca M Kilner


It is still poorly understood how animal behaviour shapes bacterial communities and their evolution. We use burying beetles, Nicrophorus vespilloides, to investigate how animal behaviour impacts the assembly of bacterial communities. Burying beetles use small vertebrate carcasses as breeding resources, which they roll into a ball, smear with antimicrobial exudates and bury. Using high-throughput sequencing we characterize bacterial communities on fresh mouse carcasses, aged carcasses prepared by beetles, and aged carcasses that were manually buried. The long-standing hypothesis that burying beetles clean the carcass from bacteria is refuted, as we found higher loads of bacterial DNA in beetle-prepared carcasses. Beetle-prepared carcasses were similar to fresh carcasses in terms of species richness and diversity. Beetle-prepared carcasses distinguish themselves from manually buried carcasses by the reduction of groups such as Proteobacteria and increase of groups such as Flavobacteriales and Clostridiales. Network analysis suggests that, despite differences in membership, network topology is similar between fresh and beetle-prepared carcasses. We then examined the bacterial communities in guts and exudates of breeding and non-br...Continue Reading

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