Ant colonies promote the diversity of soil microbial communities


Little is known about the role of ant colonies in regulating the distribution and diversity of soil microbial communities across large spatial scales. Here, we conducted a survey across >1000 km in eastern Australia and found that, compared with surrounding bare soils, ant colonies promoted the richness (number of phylotypes) and relative abundance of rare taxa of fungi and bacteria. Ant nests were also an important reservoir for plant pathogens. Our study also provides a portfolio of microbial phylotypes only found in ant nests, and which are associated with high nutrient availability. Together, our work highlights the fact that ant nests are an important refugia for microbial diversity.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 702057. This research is supported by the Australian Research Council project DP170104634.

Author information

M.D-B. conceived the idea of this study. M.D-B. and D.J.E. conducted soil samplings. B.K.S. provided Illumina data. K.H. conducted bioinformatics analyses. M.D-B. conducted statistical modeling. The manuscript was written by M.D-B, edited by D.J.E., and all co-authors significantly contributed to improve it.

Correspondence to Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo.

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Delgado-Baquerizo, M., Eldridge, D.J., Hamonts, K. et al. Ant colonies promote the diversity of soil microbial communities. ISME J 13, 1114–1118 (2019).

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