Authors: Patricia Perez, Tori Argenti, Andrew Nisip, Marina Ascunce
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Marina Ascunce
College: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Microbes’ symbiotic relationships with their host are thought to be one of the factors responsible for the ecological success of many plants and animals, like ants. However, the nature and dynamic of microbial communities in the invasive Solenopsis invicta, the Red Imported Fire Ant, is unknown. In this study, we characterize the bacterial community of S. invicta and Dorymyrmex bureni, a native ant, where both species live in sympatry at the UF Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce and at the UF Ordway-Swisher Biological Station in Melrose. It has been found that many species of ants possess diverse and stable microbial communities. Thus, we hypothesize that the microbial communities in S. invicta and in D. bureni, are going to be different, while within each species different sites are going to have similar microbes. Ants were collected using pitfall traps, for S. invicta ants were also directly sampled from their nests. Analysis is being done using QIIME and R software on highthroughput bacterial ribosomal 16S amplicon sequencing data. Conclusions reached by this study will allow for a further understanding of how the invasive S. invicta interacts with Florida’s native environment compared to a native ant like D. bureni.