SHORT TERM MICROBIAL COLONIZATION OF REPTILE ROADKILL
Little is known about how microbes such as bacteria and fungi in the environment temporally colonize common roadkill reptile carcasses (turtles and snakes). We opportunistically collected and deployed a variety of reptile carcasses often found deceased near roads, including an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis), an Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina), and a Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina). We sampled bacteria communities of these carcasses daily for five consecutive days. We enumerated the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) and characterized microbial distinct colonies using morphology and identification of dominant colonies using 16S rRNA sequencing across carcasses. Several ecologically relevant bacterial phyla were successfully identified colonizing and dominating carcasses differentially, including members of Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria. We observed higher bacterial colonization (CFUs) for both terrestrial and aquatic turtles, T. carolina and C. serpentina, compared to P. alleghaniensis. This study provides baseline data on the temporal microbiology of deceased reptiles found on roads in the piedmont of North Carolina.