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© 2019 Weingarten et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Freshwater mussels are a species-rich group of aquatic invertebrates that are among the most endangered groups of fauna worldwide. As filter-feeders that are constantly exposed to new microbial inoculants, mussels represent an ideal system to investigate the effects of species or the environment on gut microbiome composition. In this study, we examined if host species or site exerts a greater influence on microbiome composition. Individuals of four co-occurring freshwater mussel species, Cyclonaias asperata, Fusconaia cerina, Lampsilis ornata, and Obovaria unicolor were collected from six sites along a 50 km stretch of the Sipsey River in Alabama, USA. High throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed that mussel gut bacterial microbiota were distinct from bacteria on seston suspended in the water column, and that the composition of the gut microbiota was influenced by both host species and site. Despite species and environmental variation, the most frequently detected sequences within the mussel microbiota were identified as members of the Clostridiales. Sequences identified as the nitrogen-fixing taxon Methylocystis sp. were also abundant in all mussel species, and sequences of both bacterial taxa were more abundant in mussels than in water. Site physicochemical conditions explained almost 45% of variation in seston bacterial communities but less than 8% of variation in the mussel bacterial microbiome. Together, these findings suggest selective retention of bacterial taxa by the freshwater mussel host, and that both species and the environment are important in determining mussel gut microbiome composition.

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