Gut microbiome rules what a mite can eat. New paper in The FASEB Journal

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The biology of many arthropods can only be understood when their associated microbiome is considered. The nutritional requirements of the bulb mite Rhizoglyphus robini Claparede (Acari: Astigmata: Acaridae) in the laboratory have been shown to be very easily satisfied, and in the field the mites prefer fungus-infected over uninfected plants. To test whether symbiotic bacteria facilitate the survival of R. robini on a nutritionally-unbalanced diet, we investigated the composition of its microbiome. Using 454 pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA gene fragments, three genera were found to dominate the bacterial community: Myroides  (41.4%), Serratia  (11.4%) and Alcaligenes  (4.5%); the latter two are known to include chitinase producing species. Laboratory experiments demonstrated that mite fecundity is significantly higher (2 times) on fungus than on controls (sterilized potato dextrose agar and filter paper). Also, when mite homogenate was applied to a chitin layer, the halo produced through degradation was clearly visible while the saline control did not produce a halo. We thus concluded that R. robini utilizes fungal chitin, at least to a certain extent, as a food source with the help of its associated bacteria. This information supports the general concept of multigenome organisms and the involvement of bacteria in the mite’s nutritional ecology.

Renate Zindel, Maya Ofek, Dror Minz, Eric Palevsky, Einat Zchori-Fein, and Alexandre Aebi (2013) The role of the bacterial community in the nutritional ecology of the bulb mite Rhizoglyphus robini (Acari: Astigmata: Acaridae) FASEB J fj.12-216242; published ahead of print January 10, 2013, doi:10.1096/fj.12-216242 available here