Author(s): Egert M, Marhan S, Wagner B, Scheu S, Friedrich MW
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Abstract Earthworms are important members of the soil macrofauna. They modify soil physical properties, soil organic matter decomposition, and thus regulate carbon and nitrogen cycling in soil. However, their interactions with soil microorganisms are still poorly understood, in particular the effect of gut passage on the community structure of ingested microorganisms. Moreover, it is still unsolved, if earthworms, like many other soil-feeding invertebrates, possess an indigenous gut microbial community. Therefore, we investigated the bacterial and archaeal community structure in soil (with and without additional beech litter), gut, and fresh casts of Lumbricus terrestris, an anecic litter-feeding earthworm, by means of terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis of 16S rRNA gene fragments. Ecological indices of community diversity and similarity, calculated from the T-RFLP profiles, revealed only small differences between the bacterial and archaeal communities in soil, gut, and fresh casts under both feeding conditions, especially in comparison to other soil-feeding invertebrates. However, multivariate statistical analysis combining multidimensional scaling and discriminant function analysis proved that these differences were highly significant, in particular when the earthworms were fed beech litter in addition. Because there were no dominant gut-specific OTUs detectable, the existence of an abundant indigenous earthworm microbial community appears unlikely, at least in the midgut region of L. terrestris.
This article was published in FEMS Microbiol Ecol
and referenced in Journal of Agricultural Science and Food Research