MAY 02, 2018 08:30 AM PDT

The Microbiome of Nematodes Reveals Their Diversity

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Nematodes are tiny worms, and the floors of the world's oceans are crawling with them. There might be hundreds of millions of different species of these worms, just within one square meter of sediment down there. So how are all of these crowded organisms getting enough nutrients to survive? University of California, Riverside scientists wanted to investigate that question and began by looking at the gut microbes that live within these worms to learn more about the role they may play. As it turned out, however, they don’t seem to have one.

Scanning electron microscopy of marine nematodes. UCR's Holly Bik is one of the few researchers studying the microbiomes of invertebrate animals. / Credit: James Baldwin and Manuel Mundo-Ocampo, UC Riverside

Reporting in Molecular Ecology, the nematodes that have similar microbiomes are not necessarily closely related; the two characteristics don’t correlate. The study, led by Holly Bik, an assistant professor in UCR's Department of Nematology, is different from previous work in insects and nematodes that revealed microbial profiles among families are alike.

For this work, the investigators studied 33 genera of worms, with 281 members the were gathered from Southern California, Arctic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. By painstakingly isolating individual, microscopic worms, the team classified them using a microscope, and then by DNA assay. While nematodes are grouped based on the features their mouths have, the DNA provided a window into the microbial communities living in the nematodes. The microbes, which included fungi, bacteria, protists and other microorganisms, then shed some light on the food, parasites, and microbiomes carried and used by the species.
 
It turned out that regardless of the relationship between nematodes, their microbial profiles did not correlate in any way with their association. There was no connection between nematode microbiomes and geography either.

"Our results suggest that in marine habitats, free-living nematodes may utilize more diverse and generalist foraging strategies than previously thought," Bik said.

Bik noted that a surprising and intriguing finding is the discovery that nematodes are associated with several parasites, such as slime molds, that are parasitic in other marine invertebrates. The team also learned that bacteria and nematodes commonly associate, playing essential roles in the cycling of nutrients and working to maintain the ecological processes of Earth.

"Nematodes may play a significant but unacknowledged role in the global nutrient cycling of carbon, nitrogen, methane, and sulfur," Bik said.

Check out an audio interview with Dr. Bik in the video above from UCR today.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via University of California, Riverside, Molecular Ecology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
NOV 17, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 17, 2019
Why Some Places Have More Baby Girls than Boys
Typically, there are more male babies born than females, with the global average lying at 105 boys born for every 100 girls. Although more males are born a...
NOV 17, 2019
Microbiology
NOV 17, 2019
Lab Mice Born to Moms From the Wild Make Better Research Models
A standard research mouse genotype was preserved while generating a natural microbiome by using wild mice as surrogates....
NOV 17, 2019
Microbiology
NOV 17, 2019
Unlocking the Secret of Carbapenem Resistance in a Hospital Pathogen
While attention has been brought to the issue and some progress has been made, hospital-acquired infections are still a major problem....
NOV 17, 2019
Microbiology
NOV 17, 2019
Rethinking the Way Viruses Are Classified
Scientists may have to start reclassifying viruses, according to new work that shows they can take on more forms than we thought....
NOV 17, 2019
Microbiology
NOV 17, 2019
Unusual Fungi Found in Marine Environments
Fungal colonies were cultured from samples collected in various marine environments. Image by: Lorna M.Y. Mitchison-Field...
NOV 17, 2019
Microbiology
NOV 17, 2019
The Rare Syndrome That Causes People to Produce Alcohol in Their Gut
Some people are affected by a syndrome in which their gut microbes generate enough alcohol to cause symptoms of intoxication....
Loading Comments...