SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • Birds;
  • eggshells;
  • incubation;
  • microbes;
  • molecular tools

Abstract

Microorganisms are closely associated with eggs and may play a determinant role in embryo survival. Yet, the majority of studies focusing on this association relied on culture-based methodology, eventually leading to a skewed assessment of microbial communities. By targeting the 16S rRNA gene and internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region, we, respectively, described bacterial and fungal communities on eggshells of the homing pigeon Columba livia. We explored their structure, abundance, and composition. Firstly, we showed that sampling technique affected the outcome of the results. While broadly used, the egg swabbing procedure led to a lower DNA extraction efficiency and provided different profiles of bacterial communities than those based on crushed eggshell pieces. Secondly, we observed shifts in bacterial and fungal communities during incubation. At late incubation, bacterial communities showed a reduction in diversity, while their abundance increased, possibly due to the competitive advantage of some species. When compared to their bacterial counterparts, fungal communities also decreased in diversity at late incubation. In that case, however, the decline was associated with a diminution of their overall abundance. Conclusively, our results showed that although incubation might inhibit microbial growth when compared to unincubated eggs, we observed the selective growth of specific bacterial species during incubation. Moreover, we showed that fungi are a substantial component of the microbial communities associated with eggshells and require further investigations in avian ecology. Identifying the functional roles of these microorganisms is likely to provide news insights into the evolutionary strategies that control embryo survival.