Microbial succession from a subsequent secondary death event following mass mortality.
Background: Each death event can be characterized by its associated microbes - a living community of bacteria composed of carcass, soil, and insect-introduced bacterial species - a necrobiome. With the possibility for close succession of these death events, it may be beneficial to characterize how the magnitude of an initial death event may impact the decomposition and necrobiomes of subsequent death events in close proximity. In this paper we hope to characterize the microbial communities associated with a proximate subsequent death event, and distinguish any changes within those communities based on the magnitude of an initial death event and the biomass of preexisting carcass (es) undergoing decomposition. For this experiment, 6 feral swine carcasses in containers were placed in the vicinity of preexisting and ongoing carcass decomposition at sites of three different scales of decomposing carcass biomass. Swab samples were collected from the skin and eye sockets of the container pigs and subjected to 16 s rRNA sequencing and OTU assignment. Results: PERMANOVA analysis of the bacterial taxa showed that there was no significant difference in the bacterial communities based on initial mortality event biomass size, but we did see a change in the bacterial communities over time, and slight differences between the skin and ocular cavity communities. Even without soil input, necrobiome communities can change rapidly. Further characterization of the bacterial necrobiome included utilization of the Random Forest algorithm to identify the most important predictors for time of decomposition. Sample sets were also scanned for notable human and swine-associated pathogens. Conclusions: The applications from this study are many, ranging from establishing the environmental impacts of mass mortality events to understanding the importance of scavenger, and scavenger microbial community input on decomposition.