Dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae and Geotrupidae) provide critical benefits to human society through rapid degradation and burial of cattle dung. Vertically transmitted gut microbiota may assist these beetles in cellulose digestion and the supplementation of essential nutrients lacking in dung as a food resource. Dung beetle species, Onthophagus taurus, are known possess gut associated endosymbionts; therefore, understanding the microbial composition of these microbes among populations may yield insight into the ecology and evolution of this species. Our study used next generation sequencing technology and computational resources to conduct a community level 16S rRNA analysis on 272 samples taken from 28 populations. The aims of this research were to identify the presence or absence of a core microbiome among O. taurus populations collected throughout Maryland cattle pastures.
Results indicate that core taxa are associated with O. taurus populations, as well as distinct communities between dung samples and beetle specimens preserved at different times. These differences were statistically significant and are of biological relevance. Knowledge of dung beetle-microbial symbiosis is still in its infancy; thus our research provides a foundation for discovery of functionality and ecological service of this core microbiome.