Bioturbation by the marine polychaete Capitella teleta alters the sediment microbial community by ingestion and defecation of sediment particles

Jeonghwan Jang, Rebecca A Hochstein, Valery E. Forbes, Michael J. Sadowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deposit-feeding benthic invertebrates are known to modify sediment structure and impact microbial processes associated with biogeochemical cycles in marine sedimentary environments. Despite this, however, there is limited information on how sediment ingestion and defecation by marine benthos alters microbial community structure and function in sediments. In the current study, we used high-throughput sequencing data of 16S rRNA genes obtained from a previous microcosm study to examine how sediment processing by the marine polychaete Capitella teleta specifically affects sediment microbiota. Here we show that both sediment ingestion and defecation by C. teleta significantly alters overall microbial community structure and function. Sediment processing by C. teleta resulted in significant enrichment of sediment microbial communities involved in sulfur and carbon cycling in worm fecal pellets. Moreover, C. teleta's microbiota was predominantly comprised of bacterial functional groups involved in fermentation, relative to microbiota found outside of the host. Collectively, results of this study indicate that C. teleta has the ability to alter microbial biogeochemical cycles in the benthic sedimentary environment by altering microbial assemblages in the worm gut, and in the sediment ingested and defecated by worms as they feed on sediment particles. In this sense, C. teleta plays an important role as an ecosystem engineer and in shaping nutrient cycling in the benthic environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number142239
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jan 15 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the University of Minnesota BioTechnology Institute . We would like to thank Glenn Lopez for help collecting marine sediment in the field.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


  • DNA sequence
  • Fecal pellets
  • Microbial community structure
  • Polychaete
  • Sediment processing
  • Worm

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Bioturbation by the marine polychaete Capitella teleta alters the sediment microbial community by ingestion and defecation of sediment particles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this