Phagotrophic protists and their associates: Evidence for preferential grazing in an abiotically driven soil ecosystem

TitlePhagotrophic protists and their associates: Evidence for preferential grazing in an abiotically driven soil ecosystem
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsThompson, AR, Roth-Monzón, AJ, Aanderud, ZT, Adams, BJ
Date Published08/2021
KeywordsAntarctica, co-occurrence networks, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Rhogostoma sp., Sandona sp., soil food webs, variation partitioning

The complex relationship between ecosystem function and soil food web structure is governed by species interactions, many of which remain unmapped. Phagotrophic protists structure soil food webs by grazing the microbiome, yet their involvement in intraguild competition, susceptibility to predator diversity, and grazing preferences are only vaguely known. These species-dependent interactions are contextualized by adjacent biotic and abiotic processes, and thus obfuscated by typically high soil biodiversity. Such questions may be investigated in the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) of Antarctica because the physical environment strongly filters biodiversity and simplifies the influence of abiotic factors. To detect the potential interactions in the MDV, we analyzed the co-occurrence among shotgun metagenome sequences for associations suggestive of intraguild competition, predation, and preferential grazing. In order to control for confounding abiotic drivers, we tested co-occurrence patterns against various climatic and edaphic factors. Non-random co-occurrence between phagotrophic protists and other soil fauna was biotically driven, but we found no support for competition or predation. However, protists predominately associated with Proteobacteria and avoided Actinobacteria, suggesting grazing preferences were modulated by bacterial cell-wall structure and growth rate. Our study provides a critical starting-point for mapping protist interactions in native soils and highlights key trends for future targeted molecular and culture-based approaches.