Nitrogen, although abundant in the atmosphere, is paradoxically a limited resource for multicellular organisms. In the Animalia, biological nitrogen fixation has solely been demonstrated in termites. We found that all individuals of field-collected Mediterranean fruit flies (Ceratitis capitata) harbour large diazotrophic enterobacterial populations that express dinitrogen reductase in the gut. Moreover, nitrogen fixation was demonstrated in isolated guts and in live flies and may significantly contribute to the fly's nitrogen intake. The presence of similar bacterial consortia in additional insect orders suggests that nitrogen fixation occurs in vast pools of terrestrial insects. On such a large scale, this phenomenon may have a considerable impact on the nitrogen cycle.
- Nitrogen fixation