Assembly of Gut Microbial Communities in Freshwater Fish and Their Roles in Fish Condition
Abstract: Animal hosts provide associated microorganisms with suitable ecological niches in their intestines. Microbes help their hosts to digest food, protect against pathogens, and influence the host’s metabolisms. Compositional variation of gut microbial communities is common among hosts, and may affect the health status of hosts. Diet and genetic factors are well known to influence the assembly of gut microbial communities. This thesis focuses on disentangling the contributions of factors including host genetics (sex), diet, environment, and other ecological processes to the assembly of gut microbial communities in freshwater fish. The association between gut microbial communities and fish condition is also evaluated in this thesis.Applying metacommunity theory, we found environmental factors including fish habitat, fish species, their diet, dispersal factors including microbes from fish diet, and ecological drift contributed to the assembly of fish gut microbial communities. The proportion of their contribution varied between fish species, where ecological drift explained more in perch than in roach.Under natural conditions fish populations face the risk of predation, which can induce competition and impose predation stress within prey individuals. This can therefore lead to changes in their diet qualities and quantities. In this thesis, it was shown that fish diet in terms of qualities and quantities significantly influenced the overall gut microbial composition, and this influence was dependent on fish sex, a host genetic factor. Predation stress was also suggested to significantly decrease the species richness. Furthermore, when fish were experiencing a diet shift, we showed that different bacterial phyla from novel food had different colonization success in the intestine, and this colonization success was positively influenced by predation stress. Fish condition was suggested in this thesis to be affected by gut microbial composition, especially by the contributions of the bacterial phyla Tenericutes and Actinobacteria.
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