Discovering the indigenous microbial communities associated with the natural fermentation of sap from the cider gum Eucalyptus gunnii
Over the course of human history and in most societies, fermented beverages have had a unique economic and cultural importance. Before the arrival of the first Europeans in Australia, Aboriginal people reportedly produced several fermented drinks including mangaitch from flowering cones of Banksia and way-a-linah from Eucalyptus tree sap. In the case of more familiar fermented beverages, numerous microorganisms, including fungi, yeast and bacteria, present on the surface of fruits and grains are responsible for the conversion of the sugars in these materials into ethanol. Here we describe native microbial communities associated with the spontaneous fermentation of sap from the cider gum Eucalyptus gunnii, a Eucalyptus tree native to the remote Central Plateau of Tasmania. Amplicon-based phylotyping showed numerous microbial species in cider gum samples, with fungal species differing greatly to those associated with winemaking. Phylotyping also revealed several fungal sequences which do not match known fungal genomes suggesting novel yeast species. These findings highlight the vast microbial diversity associated with the Australian Eucalyptus gunnii and the native alcoholic beverage way-a-linah.