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Restructuring of the amphibian gut microbiota through metamorphosis

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Summary

Vertebrates maintain complex symbioses with a diverse community of microbes residing within their guts. The microbial players in these symbioses differ between major taxa of vertebrates, such that fish and amniotes maintain notably different communities. To date, there has not been a culture-independent inventory of an amphibian gut microbial community. Here, we compared gut microbial communities of tadpoles and frogs of the Northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens). We utilized Illumina sequencing, which allowed us to inventory more than 450 000 microbial sequences. We found that tadpoles and frogs differ markedly in the composition of their gut microbial communities, with tadpoles maintaining a community more similar to fish, whereas the frog community resembles that of amniotes. Additionally, frogs maintain a community with lower phylogenetic diversity compared with tadpoles. The significant restructuring of the microbiota is likely due to changes in diet as well as the large reorganization of the intestinal organ during metamorphosis. Overall, we propose that amphibians represent an important system in which to study regulation and selection of gut microbial communities.

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