Like mother like nest: similarity in microbial communities of adult female Pied Flycatchers and their nests

Goodenough, Anne E ORCID: 0000-0002-7662-6670, Stallwood, Bethan, Dandy, Shantelle, Nicholson, Thomas, Stubbs, Hannah and Coker, David (2017) Like mother like nest: similarity in microbial communities of adult female Pied Flycatchers and their nests. Journal of Ornithology, 158 (1). pp. 233-244. doi:10.1007/s10336-016-1371-1

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Microbial relationships between birds and nesting environments are complex and remain poorly understood. Past studies have focused on between-nest variation in egg/chick bacterial profiles with little attention given to the microbial relationships between adult birds and their nests. Moreover, very little microbial research has included mycology despite fungi being prevalent in nesting environments and important correlates of fitness in chicks. In this study, we identified microbes associated with feathers, skin and nests of Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca, an internationally-declining migrant songbird. From 75 samples, we isolated 50 bacterial OTUs (Operational Taxonomic Units; dominated by Enterococcus, Sanguibacter, Pseduomonas) and 63 fungal OTUs (dominated by Penicillium, Aspergillus), many of which had not previously been isolated from birds. Although females had significantly higher non-haemolytic bacterial OTU richness and males significantly higher fungal OTU richness, there was considerable diversity in actual OTUs isolated and thus there was no “typical” female, male, or nest microbial profile. Interestingly though, we show for the first time that the microflora of individual females is significantly more similar the microflora of her own nest than the site-level average of all nests. This suggests microbes are shared within female-nest pairs such that microbial communities start to converge. This is probably a two-way interaction as gut/skin microbes were isolated from nests and plant/soil microbes were isolated from females. Convergence was not seen for males, which probably reflects the role of the female as sole nest builder and egg incubator in this species. We discuss these findings in relation to microbial transfer pathways and avian nesting behaviour.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Additional Information: The final publication is available at Springer via
Uncontrolled Keywords: Avian microbiology, Bird microbes, Plumage bacteria, Ficedula hypoleuca, Nestboxes, Wild passerines
Related URLs:
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology > QL605 Chordates. Vertebrates > QL671-699 Birds
Q Science > QR Microbiology
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Anne Goodenough
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2016 13:13
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2023 15:34

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