Termite Hindguts and the Ecology of Microbial Communities in the Sequencing Age



V. Tai, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, 3529-6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z4

Telephone number: +604-822-4906;

FAX number: +604-822-6089;

e-mail: vera.tai@botany.ubc.ca


Advances in high-throughput nucleic acid sequencing have improved our understanding of microbial communities in a number of ways. Deeper sequence coverage provides the means to assess diversity at the resolution necessary to recover ecological and biogeographic patterns, and at the same time single-cell genomics provides detailed information about the interactions between members of a microbial community. Given the vastness and complexity of microbial ecosystems, such analyses remain challenging for most environments, so greater insight can also be drawn from analysing less dynamic ecosystems. Here, we outline the advantages of one such environment, the wood-digesting hindgut communities of termites and cockroaches, and how it is a model to examine and compare both protist and bacterial communities. Beyond the analysis of diversity, our understanding of protist community ecology will depend on using statistically sound sampling regimes at biologically relevant scales, transitioning from discovery-based to experimental ecology, incorporating single-cell microbiology and other data sources, and continued development of analytical tools.