The evolution of a beneficial association between an animal and a microbial community [article]

Darren Rebar, Helen C Leggett, Sue M.L. Aspinall, Ana Duarte, Rebecca M Kilner
2018 bioRxiv   pre-print
Animals are now known to be intimately associated with microbial communities, some of which enhance animal fitness. Yet relatively little is known about how these beneficial associations initially arose. We investigated this problem with an experiment on burying beetles, Nicrophorus vespilloides, which breed on the body of a small dead vertebrate. We found that burying beetles breeding on germ-free mice produced smaller larvae, with lower fitness, than those breeding on conventional germ-laden
more » ... ice. Thus, burying beetles gain benefits from the microbial community associated with their carrion breeding resource, because they lose fitness when this community is removed experimentally. Our experiment suggests that a symbiosis between an animal and a microbial community might begin as an adaptation to the microbial ecosystem in which the animal lives, even when these microbes exist outside the animal, are transiently associated with it at each generation and are not directly transmitted from parents to offspring.
doi:10.1101/357657 fatcat:zcltbvefyvfclccv4frrms7a3m