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Genetica. 2011 May;139(5):541-50. doi: 10.1007/s10709-010-9498-0. Epub 2010 Sep 16.

Comparative analysis of microbial diversity in Longitarsus flea beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae).

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Department of Biology, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182, USA.


Herbivorous beetles comprise a significant fraction of eukaryotic biodiversity and their plant-feeding adaptations make them notorious agricultural pests. Despite more than a century of research on their ecology and evolution, we know little about the diversity and function of their symbiotic microbial communities. Recent culture-independent molecular studies have shown that insects possess diverse gut microbial communities that appear critical for their survival. In this study, we combined culture-independent methods and high-throughput sequencing strategies to perform a comparative analysis of Longitarsus flea-beetles microbial community diversity (MCD). This genus of beetle herbivores contains host plant specialists and generalists that feed on a diverse array of toxic plants. Using a deep-sequencing approach, we characterized the MCD of eleven Longitarsus species across the genus, several of which represented independent shifts to the same host plant families. Database comparisons found that Longitarsus-associated microbes came from two habitat types: insect guts and the soil rhizosphere. Statistical clustering of the Longitarsus microbial communities found little correlation with the beetle phylogeny, and uncovered discrepancies between bacterial communities extracted directly from beetles and those from frass. A Principal Coordinates Analysis also found some correspondence between beetle MCD and host plant family. Collectively, our data suggest that environmental factors play a dominant role in shaping Longitarsus MCD and that the root-feeding beetle larvae of these insects are inoculated by soil rhizosphere microbes. Future studies will investigate MCD of select Longitarsus species across their geographic ranges and explore the connection between the soil rhizosphere and the beetle MCD.

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