Document Type


Publication Date

October 2009


Microbial communities typically vary in composition and structure over space and time. Little is known about the inherent characteristics of communities that govern various drivers of these changes, such as random variation, changes in response to perturbation, or susceptibility to invasion. In this study, we use 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequences to describe variation among bacterial communities in the midguts of cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) larvae and examine the influence of community structure on susceptibility to invasion. We compared communities in larvae experiencing the same conditions at different times (temporal variation) or fed different diets (perturbation). The most highly represented phylum was Proteobacteria, which was present in all midgut communities. The observed species richness ranged from six to 15, and the most abundant members affiliated with the genera Methylobacteria, Asaia, Acinetobacter, Enterobacter, and Pantoea. Individual larvae subjected to the same conditions at the same time harbored communities that were highly similar in structure and membership, whereas the communities observed within larval populations changed with diet and over time. In addition, structural changes due to perturbation coincided with enhanced susceptibility to invasion by Enterobacter sp. NAB3R and Pantoea stewartii CWB600, suggesting that resistance to invasion is in part governed by community structure. These findings along with the observed conservation of membership at the phylum level, variation in structure and membership at lower taxonomic levels, and its relative simplicity make the cabbage white butterfly larval community an attractive model for studying community dynamics and robustness.Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-009-9595-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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