Bacterial communities are known to play important roles in insect life histories, yet their consistency or variation across populations is poorly understood. Bacteria associated with the bark beetle Dendroctonus valens LeConte from eight populations, ranging from Wisconsin to Oregon, were evaluated and compared. We used the culture-independent technique of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis to visualize bacterial diversity, or individual operational taxonomic units (OTUs), from individual beetles. One-way analysis of similarities was used to test for differences of bacterial communities between sites. Analysis of community profiles showed that individual beetles on average contained 10 OTUs, with frequency of association from 2 to 100% of beetles. OTU sequences most closely matched β- and γ-proteobacteria, and one each matched Bacilli and Actinobacteria. Several OTUs were particularly abundant, most notably an Actinobacterium from 100% and two Proteobacteria from 60% of beetles sampled. Some OTUs were similar to previously described bacteria with known biochemical capabilities and ecological functions, suggesting that some bacterial associates of D. valens may contribute to its ability to exploit a resource low in nutrients and high in defensive compounds. There were significant differences of bacterial communities between sites. The strength of these differences was positively correlated with distance between sites, although additional unexplained factors also contribute to the variation.
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