Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 4-20-2021

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Colin Jackson

Second Advisor

Peter Zee

Third Advisor

Brice Noonan

Relational Format



Freshwater mussels are important bioindicators of aquatic environmental quality, yet little is known about the composition of their gut microbiome or how it varies between different locations and mussel species. In this study, two species of mussels were collected from three sites located in two rivers, the Duck River and the Paint Rock River of the Tennessee River Basin. The gut microbiome of each mussel was characterized by 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Gut microbial communities were primarily composed of members of the Planctomycetes, Cyanobacteria, and Proteobacteria, which along with six other phyla accounted for nearly 90% of the sequences. Dominant operational taxonomic units (OTUs) included representatives of the Fusobacteria, Firmicutes, Planctomycetes, Cyanobacteria, and Proteobacteria. Gut microbial communities primarily differed based on sample site and were also influenced by mussel species and river. With site as the most significant influence on the gut microbiome, changes to the local environmental conditions are likely to affect this aspect of mussel biology. Therefore, freshwater conservation efforts should consider both the gut microbial community and the mussels themselves.

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