Parasites dominate hyperdiverse soil protist communities in Neotropical rainforests

Frédéric Mahé, Colomban De Vargas, David Bass, Lucas Czech, Alexandros Stamatakis, Enrique Lara, David Singer, Jordan Mayor, John Bunge, Sarah Sernaker, Tobias Siemensmeyer, Isabelle Trautmann, Sarah Romac, Cédric Berney, Alexey Kozlov, Edward A.D. Mitchell, Christophe V.W. Seppey, Elianne Egge, Guillaume Lentendu, Rainer WirthGabriel Trueba, Micah Dunthorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

197 Scopus citations

Abstract

High animal and plant richness in tropical rainforest communities has long intrigued naturalists. It is unknown if similar hyperdiversity patterns are reflected at the microbial scale with unicellular eukaryotes (protists). Here we show, using environmental metabarcoding of soil samples and a phylogeny-aware cleaning step, that protist communities in Neotropical rainforests are hyperdiverse and dominated by the parasitic Apicomplexa, which infect arthropods and other animals. These host-specific parasites potentially contribute to the high animal diversity in the forests by reducing population growth in a density-dependent manner. By contrast, too few operational taxonomic units (OTUs) of Oomycota were found to broadly drive high tropical tree diversity in a host-specific manner under the Janzen-Connell model. Extremely high OTU diversity and high heterogeneity between samples within the same forests suggest that protists, not arthropods, are the most diverse eukaryotes in tropical rainforests. Our data show that protists play a large role in tropical terrestrial ecosystems long viewed as being dominated by macroorganisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0091
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Volume1
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2017

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