Diversity and evolution of the termite gut microbiota

The intestinal microbiota of termites comprises numerous bacterial lineages that seem to occur exclusively in termite guts. However, evidence is increasing that representatives of these lineages are present also in other insects, including the closely related cockroaches (e.g., Andert et al., 2010; Ikeda-Ohtsubo et al., 2010; Thompson et al., 2012). Our detailed analysis of Shelfordella lateralis—the first comprehensive study of bacterial diversity in the cockroach gut—documents that community structure reflects not only the close relationship between cockroaches and termites but also indicates the existence of habitat-specific bacterial lineages(Schauer et al., 2012). We found evidence for habitat selection in another system in a collaborative project with the MPI for Ornithology, which also revealed that the bacterial microbiota in the ceca of wild and captive grouse fundamentally differ (Tetrao urogallus) (Wienemann et al., 2011).

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