Melani Muratore, Staci N Seitz



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Microbes inhabit many corners of the Earth, including the intestines of all animals. These intestinal microbes, collectively called the “gut microbiome,” provide numerous nutritional and regulatory functions for the animals they live in and thus play an important role in animal health. The fungal communities in insects, specifically, play a diverse, but important role in insect physiology, as well as insect control. The overall goal of this project is to identify the fungal communities in grasshoppers to enrich our knowledge in insect fungal microbiome. Questions that we wanted to answer were: “what is the composition of the fungal communities in the microbiome of grasshoppers?” and “what drives the composition of the fungal communities in the microbiome of grasshoppers?” In this study, we investigated the composition of the fungal community inside grasshoppers. The grasshoppers were collected in the summer of 2017 from a Texas prairie as part of a multifactorial micronutrient experiment. DNA was extracted from the grasshopper gut and submitted for sequencing by Zymo Research. After analyzing the sequencing results, we identified two fungal phyla that were present in all samples: Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. Within Ascomycota, the class Dothideomycetes is most prevalent. Within Basidiomycota, the classes Tremellomycetes and Ustilaginomycetes are most prevalent. Dothideomycetes are typically found as saprobes, or decomposers, that break down dead leaf matter. They are also commonly found on living plants, acting as pathogens or endophytes. Tremellomycetes are a type of pathogenic fungus that acts as a parasite toward insects and plants. Ustilaginomycetes, known as “smut fungi,” act as a parasite toward vascular plants. All of these classes of fungi are directly involved with plant matter. Further statistical investigation will be done to determine the drivers of the diversity of these fungal communities and their significance.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Honors Thesis

Primary Advisor

Ying-Ju Chen, Chelse M. Prather, Yvonne Y. Sun

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project

Patience, Young Grasshopper: Identifying the fungal composition of the grasshopper microbiome