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Amphibian clutches are colonized by diverse but poorly studied communities of micro-organisms. One of the most noted ones is the unicellular green alga, Oophila amblystomatis, but the occurrence and role of other micro-organisms in the capsular chamber surrounding amphibian clutches have remained largely unstudied. Here, we undertook a multi-marker DNA metabarcoding study to characterize the community of algae and other micro-eukaryotes associated with agile frog (Rana dalmatina) clutches. Samplings were performed at three small ponds in Germany, from four substrates: water, sediment, tree leaves from the bottom of the pond, and R. dalmatina clutches. Sampling substrate strongly determined the community compositions of algae and other micro-eukaryotes. Therefore, as expected, the frog clutch-associated communities formed clearly distinct clusters. Clutch-associated communities in our study were structured by a plethora of not only green algae, but also diatoms and other ochrophytes. The most abundant operational taxonomic units (OTUs) in clutch samples were taxa from Chlamydomonas, Oophila, but also from Nitzschia and other ochrophytes. Sequences of Oophila “Clade B” were found exclusively in clutches. Based on additional phylogenetic analyses of 18S rDNA and of a matrix of 18 nuclear genes derived from transcriptomes, we confirmed in our samples the existence of two distinct clades of green algae assigned to Oophila in past studies. We hypothesize that “Clade B” algae correspond to the true Oophila, whereas “Clade A” algae are a series of Chlorococcum species that, along with other green algae, ochrophytes and protists, colonize amphibian clutches opportunistically and are often cultured from clutch samples due to their robust growth performance. The clutch-associated communities were subject to filtering by sampling location, suggesting that the taxa colonizing amphibian clutches can drastically differ depending on environmental conditions.

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