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Detection of mitochondrial COII DNA sequences in ant guts as a method for assessing termite predation by ants.

Fayle TM, Scholtz O, Dumbrell AJ, Russell S, Segar ST, Eggleton P - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Of these, 17.2 % of individuals had termite DNA in their guts, with BLAST analysis confirming the identity of 34.1 % of these termites to family level or better.However, two ant species were found to consume only Anoplotermes-group termites, indicating possible predatory specialisation at a higher taxonomic level.Using a laboratory feeding test, we were able to detect termite COII sequences in ant guts up to 2 h after feeding, indicating that our method only detects recent feeding events.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Institute of Entomology, Biology Centre of Czech Academy of Sciences and Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Branišovská 31, 370 05 České Budějovice, Czech Republic; Forest Ecology and Conservation Group, Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Buckhurst Road, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 7PY, United Kingdom; Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 88400, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

ABSTRACT
Termites and ants contribute more to animal biomass in tropical rain forests than any other single group and perform vital ecosystem functions. Although ants prey on termites, at the community level the linkage between these groups is poorly understood. Thus, assessing the distribution and specificity of ant termitophagy is of considerable interest. We describe an approach for quantifying ant-termite food webs by sequencing termite DNA (cytochrome c oxidase subunit II, COII) from ant guts and apply this to a soil-dwelling ant community from tropical rain forest in Gabon. We extracted DNA from 215 ants from 15 species. Of these, 17.2 % of individuals had termite DNA in their guts, with BLAST analysis confirming the identity of 34.1 % of these termites to family level or better. Although ant species varied in detection of termite DNA, ranging from 63 % (5/7; Camponotus sp. 1) to 0 % (0/7; Ponera sp. 1), there was no evidence (with small sample sizes) for heterogeneity in termite consumption across ant taxa, and no evidence for species-specific ant-termite predation. In all three ant species with identifiable termite DNA in multiple individuals, multiple termite species were represented. Furthermore, the two termite species that were detected on multiple occasions in ant guts were in both cases found in multiple ant species, suggesting that ant-termite food webs are not strongly compartmentalised. However, two ant species were found to consume only Anoplotermes-group termites, indicating possible predatory specialisation at a higher taxonomic level. Using a laboratory feeding test, we were able to detect termite COII sequences in ant guts up to 2 h after feeding, indicating that our method only detects recent feeding events. Our data provide tentative support for the hypothesis that unspecialised termite predation by ants is widespread and highlight the use of molecular approaches for future studies of ant-termite food webs.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Maximum likelihood phylogeny of termites consumed by ants based on COII sequences.Phylogeny rooted to Rhinotermitidae. Node values give bootstrap support. Scale bar represents substitutions per site based on the GTR+I+G model.
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pone.0122533.g001: Maximum likelihood phylogeny of termites consumed by ants based on COII sequences.Phylogeny rooted to Rhinotermitidae. Node values give bootstrap support. Scale bar represents substitutions per site based on the GTR+I+G model.

Mentions: From the 37 termite PCR products sequenced, we found 14 were of suitable quality for further analysis. These clustered into 12 MOTUs that gave termite matches of over 80% when compared to sequences deposited in Genbank [51] using the discontiguous BLAST algorithm [52] which is suitable for cross-species comparisons when the differences between query and references sequences is less than 95% (as is the case for 12/14 of the termite sequences). A large proportion of the termite sequences were from the soldierless termite clade (the Anoplotermes-group; Termitidae: Apicotermitinae; Fig 1) that are abundant members of the local termite community in the soil [3]. The other close BLAST matches were with groups that are commonly found in the soil except for the Rhinotermitidae, which are rarely encountered in the soil in African old growth tropical rain forests [53]. These are wood-feeding termites and were probably devoured earlier in dead wood. Given the small total number of positive termite identifications and the high diversity of the system, even if there is no species-specificity at all, one would expect multiple “singleton interactions”, which is what we observed (three instances; Fig 2). The only informative interactions in terms of detecting species-level specificity of ant-termite predation are those in which there are multiple records of one ant species consuming termites. Multiple individuals with identifiable termite DNA were found in three species of ants (Euponera brunoi, N = 3; Mesoponera caffraria, N = 4; Tetramorium sp. 8, N = 2), with all three predating multiple termite species. This provides no evidence for termite species-level specificity in ant predation. However, both E. brunoi and Tetramorium sp. 8 were only found to feed on termites from the Anoplotermes group, indicating a possible genus-group level specialisation on this soil feeding group.


Detection of mitochondrial COII DNA sequences in ant guts as a method for assessing termite predation by ants.

Fayle TM, Scholtz O, Dumbrell AJ, Russell S, Segar ST, Eggleton P - PLoS ONE (2015)

Maximum likelihood phylogeny of termites consumed by ants based on COII sequences.Phylogeny rooted to Rhinotermitidae. Node values give bootstrap support. Scale bar represents substitutions per site based on the GTR+I+G model.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4390358&req=5

pone.0122533.g001: Maximum likelihood phylogeny of termites consumed by ants based on COII sequences.Phylogeny rooted to Rhinotermitidae. Node values give bootstrap support. Scale bar represents substitutions per site based on the GTR+I+G model.
Mentions: From the 37 termite PCR products sequenced, we found 14 were of suitable quality for further analysis. These clustered into 12 MOTUs that gave termite matches of over 80% when compared to sequences deposited in Genbank [51] using the discontiguous BLAST algorithm [52] which is suitable for cross-species comparisons when the differences between query and references sequences is less than 95% (as is the case for 12/14 of the termite sequences). A large proportion of the termite sequences were from the soldierless termite clade (the Anoplotermes-group; Termitidae: Apicotermitinae; Fig 1) that are abundant members of the local termite community in the soil [3]. The other close BLAST matches were with groups that are commonly found in the soil except for the Rhinotermitidae, which are rarely encountered in the soil in African old growth tropical rain forests [53]. These are wood-feeding termites and were probably devoured earlier in dead wood. Given the small total number of positive termite identifications and the high diversity of the system, even if there is no species-specificity at all, one would expect multiple “singleton interactions”, which is what we observed (three instances; Fig 2). The only informative interactions in terms of detecting species-level specificity of ant-termite predation are those in which there are multiple records of one ant species consuming termites. Multiple individuals with identifiable termite DNA were found in three species of ants (Euponera brunoi, N = 3; Mesoponera caffraria, N = 4; Tetramorium sp. 8, N = 2), with all three predating multiple termite species. This provides no evidence for termite species-level specificity in ant predation. However, both E. brunoi and Tetramorium sp. 8 were only found to feed on termites from the Anoplotermes group, indicating a possible genus-group level specialisation on this soil feeding group.

Bottom Line: Of these, 17.2 % of individuals had termite DNA in their guts, with BLAST analysis confirming the identity of 34.1 % of these termites to family level or better.However, two ant species were found to consume only Anoplotermes-group termites, indicating possible predatory specialisation at a higher taxonomic level.Using a laboratory feeding test, we were able to detect termite COII sequences in ant guts up to 2 h after feeding, indicating that our method only detects recent feeding events.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Institute of Entomology, Biology Centre of Czech Academy of Sciences and Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Branišovská 31, 370 05 České Budějovice, Czech Republic; Forest Ecology and Conservation Group, Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Buckhurst Road, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 7PY, United Kingdom; Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 88400, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

ABSTRACT
Termites and ants contribute more to animal biomass in tropical rain forests than any other single group and perform vital ecosystem functions. Although ants prey on termites, at the community level the linkage between these groups is poorly understood. Thus, assessing the distribution and specificity of ant termitophagy is of considerable interest. We describe an approach for quantifying ant-termite food webs by sequencing termite DNA (cytochrome c oxidase subunit II, COII) from ant guts and apply this to a soil-dwelling ant community from tropical rain forest in Gabon. We extracted DNA from 215 ants from 15 species. Of these, 17.2 % of individuals had termite DNA in their guts, with BLAST analysis confirming the identity of 34.1 % of these termites to family level or better. Although ant species varied in detection of termite DNA, ranging from 63 % (5/7; Camponotus sp. 1) to 0 % (0/7; Ponera sp. 1), there was no evidence (with small sample sizes) for heterogeneity in termite consumption across ant taxa, and no evidence for species-specific ant-termite predation. In all three ant species with identifiable termite DNA in multiple individuals, multiple termite species were represented. Furthermore, the two termite species that were detected on multiple occasions in ant guts were in both cases found in multiple ant species, suggesting that ant-termite food webs are not strongly compartmentalised. However, two ant species were found to consume only Anoplotermes-group termites, indicating possible predatory specialisation at a higher taxonomic level. Using a laboratory feeding test, we were able to detect termite COII sequences in ant guts up to 2 h after feeding, indicating that our method only detects recent feeding events. Our data provide tentative support for the hypothesis that unspecialised termite predation by ants is widespread and highlight the use of molecular approaches for future studies of ant-termite food webs.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus