Drosophila Regulate Yeast Density and Increase Yeast Community Similarity in a Natural Substrate
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Drosophila melanogaster adults and larvae, but especially larvae, had profound effects on the densities and community structure of yeasts that developed in banana fruits. Pieces of fruit exposed to adult female flies previously fed fly-conditioned bananas developed higher yeast densities than pieces of the same fruits that were not exposed to flies, supporting previous suggestions that adult Drosophila vector yeasts to new substrates. However, larvae alone had dramatic effects on yeast density and species composition. When yeast densities were compared in pieces of the same fruits assigned to different treatments, fruits that developed low yeast densities in the absence of flies developed significantly higher yeast densities when exposed to larvae. Across all of the fruits, larvae regulated yeast densities within narrow limits, as compared to a much wider range of yeast densities that developed in pieces of the same fruits not exposed to flies. Larvae also affected yeast species composition, dramatically reducing species diversity across fruits, reducing variation in yeast communities from one fruit to the next (beta diversity), and encouraging the consistent development of a yeast community composed of three species of yeast (Candida californica, C. zemplinina, and Pichia kluvyeri), all of which were palatable to larvae. Larvae excreted viable cells of these three yeast species in their fecal pools, and discouraged the growth of filamentous fungi, processes which may have contributed to their effects on the yeast communities in banana fruits. These and other findings suggest that D. melanogaster adults and their larval offspring together engage in ‘niche construction’, facilitating a predictable microbial environment in the fruit substrates in which the larvae live and develop.