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How Ecological Drift Shapes Microbiome Diversity Within Animal Hosts

Published on Sun Aug 20 2023Squash Bug - Anasa tristis | Christina Butler on Flickr Squash Bug - Anasa tristis | Christina Butler on Flickr

A new study has shed light on the factors that contribute to the diversity of microbiomes within animal hosts. The research, published as a preprint on bioRxiv, investigated the symbiotic relationship between the squash bug, Anasa tristis, and its bacterial symbionts in the genus Caballeronia. The study found that ecological drift, which causes stochastic fluctuations in community composition, plays a significant role in driving heterogeneity in symbiont populations both between hosts and within a single host.

Previous research has primarily focused on the role of natural selection and host-mediated selection in shaping microbiome diversity. However, this study suggests that ecological drift can account for the observed heterogeneity in symbiont community composition, even among closely related strains. The researchers demonstrated this by artificially modulating symbiont bottleneck size and strain diversity during colonization.

The findings have implications for our understanding of symbiosis and microbe-microbe interactions within host-associated microbiomes. The study suggests that the transmission, co-infection, and population structure of symbionts in nature can be influenced by ecological drift. This, in turn, can drive the evolution of host-microbe symbiosis and further interactions between different microbes within the host.

The role of ecological drift in symbiotic relationships has been underappreciated in previous studies. The findings from this study suggest that ecological drift should be considered as a key factor in the evolution and maintenance of specialized host-microbe symbioses. This research provides important insights into the processes that shape microbiome diversity, and further studies are needed to fully understand the implications of ecological drift on host-associated microbial communities.


Written by Chen, J., Kwong, Z., Gerardo, N. M., Vega, N. M.
Tags: Biology | Biology:Ecology | Biology:Microbiology

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