Microbial communities on flower surfaces act as signatures of pollinator visitation

Masayuki Ushio*, Eri Yamasaki, Hiroyuki Takasu, Atsushi J. Nagano, Shohei Fujinaga, Mie N. Honjo, Mito Ikemoto, Shoko Sakai, Hiroshi Kudoh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8695
Number of pages7
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Microbial communities on flower surfaces act as signatures of pollinator visitation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this