|Zeibich, L; Schmidt, O; Drake, HL: Fermenters in the earthworm gut: do transients matter?, FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 95 (2019), doi:10.1093/femsec/fiy221|
Earthworms have profound impact on soil-based ecosystems. Although theoretical considerations suggest that most microbes in the earthworm gut are likely ingested and transient, the non-responsiveness of soil microbes to a specific high value gut nutrient and anoxia has made it difficult to demonstrate that responsive gut fermenters are derived from soil. Therefore, soil and gut content of the model earthworm Lumbricus terrestris were examined for their fermentative capabilities. In unsupplemented anoxic microcosms, fermentation was negligible with soil but rapid with gut content. However, both soil and gut content facilitated robust fermentations when challenged with complex nutrients indicative of those released from gizzard-disrupted cells. Based on the relative abundances of 16S rRNA and 16S rRNA gene sequences, the responsive fermentative taxa in unsupplemented gut content treatments were negligible in unsupplemented soil treatments. In contrast, the responsive fermentative taxa in soil and gut content treatments supplemented with complex nutrients displayed marked similarities, with numerous Proteobacteria- and Firmicutes-affiliated phylotypes being dominant. These findings indicated that detectable differences between the fermentative taxa in soil and gut contents are due in part to the nutrient-dependent metabolic status of community members and reinforce the likelihood that ingested transient microbes contribute to fermentation in the alimentary canal.