Honors Theses


Yvonne Sun, Ying-Ju Chen, and Chelse Prather



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Honors Thesis


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. 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?” The grasshoppers were collected in the summer of 2017 from a Texas prairie as part of a multifactorial micronutrient experiment. Upon arrival at the University of Dayton, the guts of the grasshoppers were removed to extract the DNA, which was then 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 p lants. These classes of fungi are directly involved with plant matter. Findings include that diet and phylogeny are potential drivers of the fungal composition within the grasshopper gut microbiome.

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Undergraduate research