Bacterial associates of a gregarious riparian beetle with explosive defensive chemistry

Reilly McManus, Alison Ravenscraft, Wendy Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Bombardier beetles (Carabidae: Brachininae) are well known for their unique explosive defensive chemistry. These beetles are found in riparian corridors throughout the American Southwest, where they commonly form large diurnal multispecies aggregations in moist areas under rocks, in crevices, and in leaf litter. Using high throughput 16S amplicon sequencing, we provide the first microbiome survey of a bombardier beetle, Brachinus elongatulus, collected from two sites in Arizona. Two bacterial taxa were present in all individuals sampled: Enterococcus and Dysgonomonas. Enterococcus has been implicated in the production of fecal aggregation pheromone components, which have been shown to regulate aggregation in the German cockroach; it is possible that Enterococcus plays a similar role in Brachinus. Dysgonomonas was found in all the secretory cells of the defensive system and gut samples. Additional studies are needed to determine if these microbes play a role in these beetles' unique chemical defense. Results also show that the majority of B. elongatulus individuals collected from both sites were infected with Spiroplasma. Many Spiroplasma are intracellular, vertically transmitted insect symbionts that may manipulate host reproduction (e.g., cause male-killing) or provide resistance to nematodes and/or parasitoid wasps. Defensive protection could be especially beneficial to B. elongatulus, which are frequently parasitized by horsehair worms (Nematomorpha). In sum, findings suggest several testable hypotheses on the effects bacteria may have on bombardier beetle behavior and physiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2361
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - Oct 5 2018


  • 16S rDNA
  • Bombardier beetle
  • Brachinus elongatulus
  • Microbiome
  • Nematomorpha
  • Spiroplasma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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