Amphibian gut microbiota shifts differentially in community structure but converges on habitat-specific predicted functions

Molly C. Bletz, Daniel J. Goedbloed, Eugenia Sanchez, Timm Reinhardt, Christoph C. Tebbe, Sabin Bhuju, Robert Geffers, Michael Jarek, Miguel Vences, Sebastian Steinfartz

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120 Scopus citations


Complex microbial communities inhabit vertebrate digestive systems but thorough understanding of the ecological dynamics and functions of host-associated microbiota within natural habitats is limited. We investigate the role of environmental conditions in shaping gut and skin microbiota under natural conditions by performing a field survey and reciprocal transfer experiments with salamander larvae inhabiting two distinct habitats (ponds and streams). We show that gut and skin microbiota are habitat-specific, demonstrating environmental factors mediate community structure. Reciprocal transfer reveals that gut microbiota, but not skin microbiota, responds differentially to environmental change. Stream-to-pond larvae shift their gut microbiota to that of pond-to-pond larvae, whereas pond-to-stream larvae change to a community structure distinct from both habitat controls. Predicted functions, however, match that of larvae from the destination habitats in both cases. Thus, microbial function can be matched without taxonomic coherence and gut microbiota appears to exhibit metagenomic plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13699
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Dec 15 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy

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