Staci Seitz, Melani Muratore



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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 goals of this project were to expand knowledge of R programming through statistical analysis of microbial ecology and to identify the fungal communities in grasshoppers to enrich our knowledge in insect fungal microbiome. The two main objectives in the project include (1) the identification of the composition of the fungal communities in grasshoppers and (2) the assessment of the drivers influencing the composition of the fungal communities. The grasshoppers were collected in the summer of 2017 from a Texas prairie bu Dr. Prather's research team. Upon arrival at the University of Dayton, the guts of the grasshoppers were removed by Melani Muratore to extract the DNA, which was then submitted for sequencing by Zymo Research. After analyzing the sequencing results, with funding from the STEM Catalyst Grant awarded to Dr. Prather, 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 organic 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. These classes of fungi are directly involved with plant matter, suggesting the association of plant fungi and the grasshopper fungal communities.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Capstone Project

Primary Advisor

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

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Life On Land

Patience, Young Grasshopper: Analyzing the Fungal Composition of the Grasshopper Gut Microbiome