Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 227–232 | Cite as

Effect of passage through the intestinal tract of detritivore earthworms (Lumbricus spp.) on the number of selected Gram-negative and total bacteria

  • Jens Christian Pedersen
  • Niels Bohse Hendriksen


Laboratory experiments were carried out to investigate the fate of bacteria during and after passage through the intestinal tract of detritivore earthworms. Earthworms (Lumbricus spp.) were fed with cattle dung inoculated 7 days previously with one of five different Gram-negative bacteria. Bacterial concentrations were determined 2 days later in dung and soil, and in gut material from different parts of the earthworm intestinal tract. A high percentage (28–82%) of the total bacteria (epifluorescence direct counts) in the earthworm gut content was culturable. The concentration of total heterotrophic aerobic bacteria did not vary significantly among the five different bacterial additions and the non-inoculated control. In earthworm casts the number of total heterotrophs per gram dry matter (2.1×109) was higher than in soil (1.7×108), but lower than in the dung (1.5×1010). The test-bacteria, however, showed different survival patterns along the earthworm intestinal tract. The concentrations of Escherichia coli BJ 18 and Pseudomonas putida MM 1 and MM 11 in earthworm casts were lower than in the ingested dung, while concentrations of Enterobacter cloacae A 107 and Aeromonas hydrophila DMU 115 in dung and casts were similar. Ent. cloacae, and to aminor extent E. coli, were reduced in numbers by several orders of magnitude in the pharynx and/or crop. In the hind gut, however, the concentration of Ent. cloacae had increased to the same level as in the ingested dung, while the concentration of E. coli remained low. Our observations indicate that the bacterial flora of ingested food materials changes qualitatively and quantitatively during gut transit.

Key words

Earthworms Lumbricus spp. Bacterial survival Enterobacter cloacae Escherichia coli Aeromonas hydrophila Pseudomonas putida 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jens Christian Pedersen
    • 1
  • Niels Bohse Hendriksen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Marine Ecology and MicrobiologyNational Environmental Research InstituteRoskildeDenmark

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