Microbes are easily dispersed from one place to another and immigrant microbes might contain information about the environments from which they came. We hypothesized that part of the microbial community on a flower's surface is transferred there from insect body surfaces and that this community can provide information to identify potential pollinator insects of that plant. We collected insect samples from the field and found that an insect individual harbored an average of 12.2 × 105 microbial cells on its surface. A laboratory experiment showed that the microbial community composition on a flower surface changed after contact with an insect, suggesting that microbes are transferred from the insect to the flower. Comparison of the microbial fingerprint approach and direct visual observation under field condition suggested that the microbial community on a flower surface could to some extent indicate the structure of plant–pollinator interactions. In conclusion, species-specific insect microbial communities specific to insect species can be transferred from an insect body to a flower surface and these microbes can serve as a “fingerprint” of the insect species, especially for large-bodied insects. Dispersal of microbes is a ubiquitous phenomenon that has unexpected and novel applications in many fields and disciplines.
|Number of pages||7|
|Publication status||Published - 3 Mar 2015|