Association of host and microbial species diversity across spatial scales in desert rodent communities.
ABSTRACT: Relationships between host and microbial diversity have important ecological and applied implications. Theory predicts that these relationships will depend on the spatio-temporal scale of the analysis and the niche breadth of the organisms in question, but representative data on host-microbial community assemblage in nature is lacking. We employed a natural gradient of rodent species richness and quantified bacterial communities in rodent blood at several hierarchical spatial scales to test the hypothesis that associations between host and microbial species diversity will be positive in communities dominated by organisms with broad niches sampled at large scales. Following pyrosequencing of rodent blood samples, bacterial communities were found to be comprised primarily of broad niche lineages. These communities exhibited positive correlations between host diversity, microbial diversity and the likelihood for rare pathogens at the regional scale but not at finer scales. These findings demonstrate how microbial diversity is affected by host diversity at different spatial scales and suggest that the relationships between host diversity and overall disease risk are not always negative, as the dilution hypothesis predicts.
Project description:The causes of biodiversity patterns are controversial and elusive due to complex environmental variation, covarying changes in communities, and lack of baseline and null theories to differentiate straightforward causes from more complex mechanisms. To address these limitations, we developed general diversity theory integrating metabolic principles with niche-based community assembly. We evaluated this theory by investigating patterns in the diversity and distribution of soil bacteria taxa across four orders of magnitude variation in spatial scale on an Antarctic mountainside in low complexity, highly oligotrophic soils. Our theory predicts that lower temperatures should reduce taxon niche widths along environmental gradients due to decreasing growth rates, and the changing niche widths should lead to contrasting ?- and ?-diversity patterns. In accord with the predictions, ?-diversity, niche widths and occupancies decreased while ?-diversity increased with increasing elevation and decreasing temperature. The theory also successfully predicts a hump-shaped relationship between ?-diversity and pH and a negative relationship between ?-diversity and salinity. Thus, a few simple principles explained systematic microbial diversity variation along multiple gradients. Such general theory can be used to disentangle baseline effects from more complex effects of temperature and other variables on biodiversity patterns in a variety of ecosystems and organisms.
Project description:Endolithic growth is one of the most spectacular microbial adaptations to extreme environmental constraints and the predominant life-form in the ice-free areas of Continental Antarctica. Although Antarctic endolithic microbial communities are known to host among the most resistant and extreme-adapted organisms, our knowledge on microbial diversity and composition in this peculiar niche is still limited. In this study, we investigated the diversity and structure of the fungal assemblage in the cryptoendolithic communities inhabiting sandstone using a meta-barcoding approach targeting the fungal Internal Transcribed Sequence region 1 (ITS1). Samples were collected from 14 sites in the Victoria Land, along an altitudinal gradient ranging from 1,000 to 3,300 m a.s.l. and from 29 to 96 km distance to coast. Our study revealed a clear dominance of a 'core' group of fungal taxa consistently present across all the samples, mainly composed of lichen-forming and Dothideomycetous fungi. Pareto-Lorenz curves indicated a very high degree of specialization (F0 approximately 95%), suggesting these communities are highly adapted but have limited ability to recover after perturbations. Overall, both fungal community biodiversity and composition did not show any correlation with the considered abiotic parameters, potentially due to strong fluctuations of environmental conditions at local scales.
Project description:Classical ecology provides principles for construction and function of biological communities, but to what extent these apply to the animal-associated microbiota is just beginning to be assessed. Here, we investigated the influence of several well-known ecological principles on animal-associated microbiota by characterizing gut microbial specimens from bilaterally symmetrical animals (Bilateria) ranging from flies to whales. A rigorously vetted sample set containing 265 specimens from 64 species was assembled. Bacterial lineages were characterized by 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Previously published samples were also compared, allowing analysis of over 1,098 samples in total. A restricted number of bacterial phyla was found to account for the great majority of gut colonists. Gut microbial composition was associated with host phylogeny and diet. We identified numerous gut bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequences that diverged deeply from previously studied taxa, identifying opportunities to discover new bacterial types. The number of bacterial lineages per gut sample was positively associated with animal mass, paralleling known species-area relationships from island biogeography and implicating body size as a determinant of community stability and niche complexity. Samples from larger animals harbored greater numbers of anaerobic communities, specifying a mechanism for generating more-complex microbial environments. Predictions for species/abundance relationships from models of neutral colonization did not match the data set, pointing to alternative mechanisms such as selection of specific colonists by environmental niche. Taken together, the data suggest that niche complexity increases with gut size and that niche selection forces dominate gut community construction.IMPORTANCE The intestinal microbiome of animals is essential for health, contributing to digestion of foods, proper immune development, inhibition of pathogen colonization, and catabolism of xenobiotic compounds. How these communities assemble and persist is just beginning to be investigated. Here we interrogated a set of gut samples from a wide range of animals to investigate the roles of selection and random processes in microbial community construction. We show that the numbers of bacterial species increased with the weight of host organisms, paralleling findings from studies of island biogeography. Communities in larger organisms tended to be more anaerobic, suggesting one mechanism for niche diversification. Nonselective processes enable specific predictions for community structure, but our samples did not match the predictions of the neutral model. Thus, these findings highlight the importance of niche selection in community construction and suggest mechanisms of niche diversification.
Project description:Aim:Identification of the processes that generate and maintain species diversity within the same region can provide insight into biogeographic patterns at broader spatiotemporal scales. Hawkfishes in the genus Paracirrhites are a unique taxon to explore with respect to niche differentiation, exhibiting diagnostic differences in coloration, and an apparent center of distribution outside of the Indo-Malay-Philippine (IMP) biodiversity hotspot for coral reef fishes. Our aim is to use next-generation sequencing methods to leverage samples of a taxon at their center of maximum diversity to explore phylogenetic relationships and a possible mechanism of coexistence. Location:Flint Island, Southern Line Islands, Republic of Kiribati. Methods:A comprehensive review of museum records, the primary literature, and unpublished field survey records was undertaken to determine ranges for four "arc-eye" hawkfish species in the Paracirrhites species complex and a potential hybrid. Fish from four Paracirrhites species were collected from Flint Island in the Southern Line Islands, Republic of Kiribati. Hindgut contents were sequenced, and subsequent metagenomic analyses were used to assess the phylogenetic relatedness of the host fish, the microbiome community structure, and prey remains for each species. Results:Phylogenetic analyses conducted with recovered mitochondrial genomes revealed clustering of P. bicolor with P. arcatus and P. xanthus with P. nisus, which were unexpected on the basis of previous morphological work in this species complex. Differences in taxonomic composition of gut microbial communities and presumed prey remains indicate likely separation of foraging niches. Main Conclusions:Our findings point toward previously unidentified relationships in this cryptic species complex at its proposed center of distribution. The three species endemic to the Polynesian province (P. nisus, P. xanthus, and P. bicolor) cluster separately from the more broadly distributed P. arcatus on the basis of relative abundance of metazoan sequences in the gut (presumed prey remains). Discordance between gut microbial communities and phylogeny of the host fish further reinforce the hypothesis of niche separation.
Project description:Recent analyses revealed that most of the biodiversity observed in marine microbial communities is represented by organisms with low abundance but, nonetheless essential for ecosystem dynamics and processes across both temporal and spatial scales. Surprisingly, few studies have considered the effect of macroorganism-microbe interactions on the ecology and distribution dynamics of rare microbial taxa. In this review, we synthesize several lines of evidence that these relationships cannot be neglected any longer. First, we provide empirical support that the microbiota of macroorganisms represents a significant part of marine bacterial biodiversity and that host-microbe interactions benefit to certain microbial populations which are part of the rare biosphere (i.e., opportunistic copiotrophic organisms). Second, we reveal the major role that macroorganisms may have on the dispersal and the geographic distribution of microbes. Third, we introduce an innovative and integrated view of the interactions between microbes and macroorganisms, namely <i>sustaining the rares</i>, which suggests that macroorganisms favor the maintenance of marine microbial diversity and are involved in the regulation of its richness and dynamics. Finally, we show how this hypothesis complements existing theories in microbial ecology and offers new perspectives about the importance of macroorganisms for the microbial biosphere, particularly the rare members.
Project description:Insect herbivory is pervasive in plant communities, but its impact on microbial plant colonizers is not well-studied in natural systems. By calibrating sequencing-based bacterial detection to absolute bacterial load, we find that the within-host abundance of most leaf microbiome (phyllosphere) taxa colonizing a native forb is amplified within leaves affected by insect herbivory. Herbivore-associated bacterial amplification reflects community-wide compositional shifts towards lower ecological diversity, but the extent and direction of such compositional shifts can be interpreted only by quantifying absolute abundance. Experimentally eliciting anti-herbivore defences reshaped within-host fitness ranks among Pseudomonas spp. field isolates and amplified a subset of putatively phytopathogenic P. syringae in a manner causally consistent with observed field-scale patterns. Herbivore damage was inversely correlated with plant reproductive success and was highly clustered across plants, which predicts tight co-clustering with putative phytopathogens across hosts. Insect herbivory may thus drive the epidemiology of plant-infecting bacteria as well as the structure of a native plant microbiome by generating variation in within-host bacterial fitness at multiple phylogenetic and spatial scales. This study emphasizes that 'non-focal' biotic interactions between hosts and other organisms in their ecological settings can be crucial drivers of the population and community dynamics of host-associated microbiomes.
Project description:We use mathematical modelling to examine how microbial strain communities are structured by the host specialisation traits and antigenic relationships of their members. The model is quite general and broadly applicable, but we focus on Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease bacterium, transmitted by ticks to mice and birds. In this system, host specialisation driven by the evasion of innate immunity has been linked to multiple niche polymorphism, while antigenic differentiation driven by the evasion of adaptive immunity has been linked to negative frequency dependence. Our model is composed of two host species, one vector, and multiple co-circulating pathogen strains that vary in their host specificity and their antigenic distances from one another. We explore the conditions required to maintain pathogen diversity. We show that the combination of host specificity and antigenic differentiation creates an intricate niche structure. Unequivocal rules that relate the stability of a strain community directly to the trait composition of its members are elusive. However, broad patterns are evident. When antigenic differentiation is weak, stable communities are typically composed entirely of generalists that can exploit either host species equally well. As antigenic differentiation increases, more diverse stable communities emerge, typically around trait compositions of generalists, generalists and very similar specialists, and specialists roughly balanced between the two host species.
Project description:Diversity is often associated with the functional stability of ecological communities from microbes to macroorganisms. Understanding how diversity responds to environmental perturbations and the consequences of this relationship for ecosystem function are thus central challenges in microbial ecology. Unimodal diversity-disturbance relationships, in which maximum diversity occurs at intermediate levels of disturbance, have been predicted for ecosystems where life history tradeoffs separate organisms along a disturbance gradient. However, empirical support for such peaked relationships in macrosystems is mixed, and few studies have explored these relationships in microbial systems. Here we use complex microbial microcosm communities to systematically determine diversity-disturbance relationships over a range of disturbance regimes. We observed a reproducible switch between community states, which gave rise to transient diversity maxima when community states were forced to mix. Communities showed reduced compositional stability when diversity was highest. To further explore these dynamics, we formulated a simple model that reveals specific regimes under which diversity maxima are stable. Together, our results show how both unimodal and non-unimodal diversity-disturbance relationships can be observed as a system switches between two distinct microbial community states; this process likely occurs across a wide range of spatially and temporally heterogeneous microbial ecosystems. IMPORTANCE:The diversity of microbial communities is linked to the functioning and stability of ecosystems. As humanity continues to impact ecosystems worldwide, and as diet and disease perturb our own commensal microbial communities, the ability to predict how microbial diversity will respond to disturbance is of critical importance. Using microbial microcosm experiments, we find that community diversity responds to different disturbance regimes in a reproducible and predictable way. Maximum diversity occurs when two communities, each suited to different environmental conditions, are mixed due to disturbance. This maximum diversity is transient except under specific regimes. Using a simple mathematical model, we show that transient unimodality is likely a common feature of microbial diversity-disturbance relationships in fluctuating environments.
Project description:Cichlid fishes, with their repeated colonization of lakes and subsequent radiations at different scales of phylogenetic and ecological diversification, offer an excellent model system to understand the factors shaping the host-gut microbiota association in nature. Here, we characterized the gut microbiota of the Amphilophus species complex from Central America (known as the Midas cichlid complex), encompassing 158 wild specimens (13 species) collected from seven Nicaraguan lakes, and combined these data with previously published data from two African lakes (spanning 29 species). Our aim was to comprehensively explore trends in microbiota variation and persistence along the large spatial and temporal scales of cichlid diversification (from the oldest radiation in L. Tanganyika, 9-12 My old, to young ones in Nicaraguan crater lakes, <0.5 My old), in allopatry and sympatry (within and across lakes), and across the range of dietary niches (from highly specialized to generalist feeders). Despite their extraordinary diversity, cichlids shared a remarkably conserved microbial taxonomic profile, which argues for a primary role of the host genetics in the assembly and maintenance of these microbial communities. Within this partly constrained microbiota profile, geographic isolation (continent and lake) represented the first level of discrimination. For the Midas cichlid, a partial congruency was found between host microbiota and genetic distances, suggesting that microbial communities have partly diversified along their cichlid phylogeographic history of crater lake colonization. In sympatry (within lakes), the young and poorly ecologically diversified cichlid assemblages of Central American lakes display largely unresolved gut microbiotas (in terms of both alpha and beta diversities), whereas the phylogenetically and ecologically diverse species found in African lakes showed greater microbial interspecific diversity. This pattern largely points to the level of habitat segregation, trophic niche overlap, and reproductive barriers as major modulators of the gut microbiota connectivity among sympatric species.
Project description:The effect of biodiversity declines on human health is currently debated, but empirical assessments are lacking. Lyme disease provides a model system to assess relationships between biodiversity and human disease because the etiologic agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, is transmitted in the United States by the generalist black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) among a wide range of mammalian and avian hosts. The 'dilution effect' hypothesis predicts that species-poor host communities dominated by white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) will pose the greatest human risk because P. leucopus infects the largest numbers of ticks, resulting in higher human exposure to infected I. scapularis ticks. P. leucopus-dominated communities are also expected to maintain a higher frequency of those B. burgdorferi outer surface protein C (ospC) genotypes that this host species more efficiently transmits ('multiple niche polymorphism' hypothesis). Because some of these genotypes are human invasive, an additive increase in human disease risk is expected in species-poor settings. We assessed these theoretical predictions by comparing I. scapularis nymphal infection prevalence, density of infected nymphs and B. burgdorferi genotype diversity at sites on Block Island, RI, where P. leucopus dominates the mammalian host community, to species-diverse sites in northeastern Connecticut. We found no support for the dilution effect hypothesis; B. burgdorferi nymphal infection prevalence was similar between island and mainland and the density of B. burgdorferi infected nymphs was higher on the mainland, contrary to what is predicted by the dilution effect hypothesis. Evidence for the multiple niche polymorphism hypothesis was mixed: there was lower ospC genotype diversity at island than mainland sites, but no overrepresentation of genotypes with higher fitness in P. leucopus or that are more invasive in humans. We conclude that other mechanisms explain similar nymphal infection prevalence in both communities and that high ospC genotype diversity can be maintained in both species-poor and species-rich communities.