Our knowledge of the diversity and distribution of symbiotic microorganisms across insects is fragmentary, especially outside of model species. Consequently, we know little about how variable microbiomes are within host species, how large and consistent are the differences among species, and what environmental and biological factors influence the abundance and composition of microbiomes. To address these gaps, our group is applying high-throughput next-generation sequencing methods to large batches of taxonomically diverse insects collected across time and space.
We collaborate closely with a massive insect biodiversity project, Insect Biome Atlas, which conducts large-scale sampling of flying insect communities across Sweden and Madagascar. We are also starting the characterization of long-term insect community samples from Greenland. These collections will serve as a source of vast numbers of insect specimens for high-throughput microbiome screens, followed by more detailed genomics investigation of selected symbiotic associations. The resulting data will provide information on the symbiont distribution at multiple levels: across the host phylogeny, geography, and time. They will also inform us of the mobility of symbionts within and across species, the predominant routes of interspecific symbiont transmission, and of the symbionts’ biological roles.
This dish contains individuals of seven insect species, which we are using for the optimization and testing of molecular and bioinformatic methods for insect diversity and insect microbiome characterization. We are about to start the characterization of incomparably more diverse, wild-caught insect communities. Photo: Daniel Marquina.
This line of investigation is supported by grants from the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA) “Insect Microbiomics” Polish Returns 2018 no. PPN/PPO/2018/1/00015; Polish National Science Centre (NCN) Opus 16 “Insect microbiome dynamics in time and space” no. 2018/31/B/NZ8/01158; and by Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation grant (Sweden) that supports Insect Biome Atlas project.