Culturable Microorganisms from the Earthworm Digestive Tract

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Abstract

The cultured aerobic copiotrophic bacteria and fungi from food-free digestive tracts of Aporrectodea caliginosa, Lumbricus terrestris, and Eisenia fetida earthworms, soil (compost), and fresh earthworm excrements were investigated. The microorganisms were isolated on nutrient media and identified by sequencing the fragments of bacterial 16S rRNA and fungal 28S rRNA (D1/D2 domain) gene sequences with subsequent phylogenetic analysis. Bacteria isolated from the digestive tracts of earthworms belonged to the families Aeromonadaceae, Comamonadaceae, Enterobacteriaceae, Flavobacteriaceae, Moraxellaceae, Pseudomonadaceae, and Sphingobacteriaceae (Bacteroidetes), as well as Actinobacteria. For five strains, namely Ochrobactrum sp. 341-2 (α-Proteobacteria), Massilia sp. 557-1 (β-Proteobacteria), Sphingobacterium sp. 611-2 (Bacteroidetes), Leifsonia sp. 555-1, and a bacterium from the family Microbacteriaceae, isolate 521-1 (Actinobacteria), the similarity to known 16S rRNA sequences was 93–97%; they therefore, probably belong to new species and genera. Bacterial groups isolated from the digestive tracts of earthworms were significantly different from those isolated from soil and excrements. Some bacterial taxa occurred in different sections of A. caliginosa intestine and in intestines of different earthworm species; however, the overall composition of bacterial communities in these objects is different. Existence of bacterial groupings symbiotically associated with intestines is proposed. Among the fungi, Bjerkandera adusta and Syspastospora parasitica were isolated from the cleaned digestive tracts as light-colored, sterile mycelium, as well as Geotrichum candidum, Acremonium murorum (A. murorum var. felina), Alternaria alternata, Aspergillus candidus, A. versicolor, Cladosporium cladosporioides, Rhizomucor racemosus, Mucor hiemalis, Fusarium (F. oxysporum, Fusarium sp.), and Penicillium spp. These fungi survive for a long time in the earthworm's digestive environment. Investigation of the functional characteristics and role in the host organism is required to confirm the symbiotic status of the microorganisms associated with the earthworm digestive tract.

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