Diet, Gut Microbes and Host Mate Choice: Understanding the significance of microbiome effects on host mate choice requires a case by case evaluation

Philip Leftwich, Matthew Hutchings, Tracey Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

6 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

All organisms live in close association with microbes. However, not all such associations are meaningful in an evolutionary context. Current debate concerns whether hosts and microbes are best described as communities of individuals or as holobionts (selective units of hosts plus their microbes). Recent reports that assortative mating of hosts by diet can be mediated by commensal gut microbes have attracted interest as a potential route to host reproductive isolation (RI). Here we discuss logical problems with this line of argument. We briefly review how microbes can affect host mating preferences and evaluate recent findings from fruitflies. Endosymbionts can potentially influence host RI given stable and recurrent co-association of hosts and microbes over evolutionary time. However, observations of co-occurrence of microbes and hosts are ripe for misinterpretation and such associations will rarely represent a meaningful holobiont. A framework in which hosts and their microbes are independent evolutionary units provides the only satisfactory explanation for the observed range of effects and associations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1800053
JournalBioEssays
Volume40
Issue number12
Early online date12 Oct 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Keywords

  • Symbiosis
  • holobiont
  • selection
  • gut microbiome
  • unit of selection
  • speciation
  • reproductive isolation

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