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Carnivorous plant, Microbiome, Wetland plant, Bacteria, Nutrient transformation, Microbial diversity, Eukaryotes, Ciliate, Fungi, Acari


Background. The pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea supplements nutrient acquisition through carnivory, capturing insect prey which are digested by a food web community of eukaryotes and bacteria. While the food web invertebrates are well studied, and some recent studies have characterized bacteria, detailed genetic analysis of eukaryotic diversity is lacking. This study aimed to compare eukaryotic and bacterial composition and diversity of pitcher communities within and between populations of host plants in nearby but distinct wetland habitats, and to characterize microbial functions across populations and in comparison with another freshwater community.

Methods. Pitcher fluid was sampled from the two wetlands, Cedarburg and Sapa Bogs, community DNA was extracted, and 16S and 18S rRNA amplicons were sequenced and data processed for community-level comparisons.

Results and Conclusions. Bacterial diversity in the small pitcher volume rivaled that of larger aquatic communities. Between pitcher plant populations, several bacterial families (Kiloniellaceae, Acetobacteraceae, Xanthobacteraceae, Sanguibacteraceae, Oligoflexaceae, Nitrosomonadaceae, Chromatiaceae, Saprospiraceae) were significantly higher in one population. However, although predicted pitcher bacterial functions were distinct from other freshwater communities, especially for some amino acid metabolism, functions were similar across all the pitchers in the two populations. This suggests some functional redundancy among bacterial taxa, and that functions converge to achieve similar food web processes. The sequencing identified a previously under- appreciated high diversity of ciliates, Acari mites, fungi and flagellates in pitcher com- munities; the most abundant sequences from eukaryotic taxa were Oligohymenophorea ciliates, millipedes and Ichthyosporea flagellates. Two thirds of taxa were identified as food web inhabitants and less than one third as prey organisms. Although eukaryotic composition was not significantly different between populations, there were different species of core taxonomic groups present in different pitchers--these differences may be driven by wetland habitats providing different populations to colonize new pitchers. Eukaryotic composition was more variable than bacterial composition, and there was a poor relationship between bacterial and eukaryotic composition within individual pitchers, suggesting that colonization by eukaryotes may be more stochastic than for How to bacteria, and bacterial recruitment to pitchers may involve factors other than prey capture and colonization by eukaryotic food web inhabitants.