, Volume 116, Issue 3, pp 381-388

Isolation of cellulolytic microbes from the intestinal tract of the pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides: size-related changes in diet and microbial abundance

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Abstract

Pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides (Linneaus), undergo a gradual ontogenetic dietary shift during their first year of life, marked by an increase in the consumption of plant material. To determine if this shift in diet was associated with a change in the microbial flora of the intestinal tract that may assist in degradation of plant material, stomach contents were analyzed and microbes in the intestinal tract were isolated from fish ranging from 20 to 139 mm standard length. These fish were collected from Core Sound, North Carolina, USA between March and September 1991. Plant material increased from 16% of dry weight of stomach contents in pinfish under 40 mm standard length (SL) to 65% in pinfish above 120 mm SL, confirming previous observations of a diet-related ontogenetic change in L. rhomboides. Comparison of the total cultivatable facultative and anaerobic microbial flora isolated from the intestinal tract contents of pinfish ranging in size from 26 to 139 mm SL showed a 10-fold increase between fish <40 and fish >40 mm SL, with maximum population densities of approximately 2x107 colony forming units (CFU) g-1 of intestine including contents. The percentage of microbial isolates examined capable of hydrolyzing carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) increased from 12% in fish <40 mm SL to 13 to 50% in fish >40 mm SL, although there was no strict increase with increasing fish size classes. Although the percentage of CMC-hydrolytic microbial isolates varied with respect to fish SL, the percentage of skim-milk hydrolytic (proteolytic) isolates remained relatively constant (4% of total isolates) irrespective of fish SL and dietary composition. Results presented in this study document the first isolation of carboxymethylcellulase producing microbes from the intestinal tract of any fish and demonstrate that the ontogenetic dietary shift in L. rhomboides is paralleled by qualitative and quantitative changes in the intestinal microbial community. The use of strict anaerobic sampling methods in the preparation of intestinal contents from wild-captured fresh specimens was essential in obtaining these isolates.

Communicated by J. Grassle, New Brunswick