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Co-evolution in context: The importance of studying gut microbiomes in wild animals

Katherine R. Amato
  • Program in Ecology Evolution and Conservation Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA, 61801
  • Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA, 61801
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  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2013-10-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/micsm-2013-0002


Because the gut microbiota contributes to host nutrition, health and behavior, and gut microbial community composition differs according to host phylogeny, co-evolution is believed to have been an important mechanism in the formation of the host-gut microbe relationship. However, current research is not ideal for examining this theme. Most studies of the gut microbiota are performed in controlled settings, but gut microbial community composition is strongly influenced by environmental factors. To truly explore the co-evolution of host and microbe, it is necessary to have data describing host-microbe dynamics in natural environments with variation in factors such as climate, food availability, disease prevalence, and host behavior. In this review, I use current knowledge of host-gut microbe dynamics to explore the potential interactions between host and microbe in natural habitats. These interactions include the influence of host habitat on gut microbial community composition as well as the impacts of the gut microbiota on host fitness in a given habitat. Based on what we currently know, the potential connections between host habitat, the gut microbiota, and host fitness are great. Studies of wild animals will be an essential next step to test these connections and to advance our understanding of host-gut microbe co-evolution.

Keywords: Gut microbiota; host-microbe; co-evolution; habitat; ecology; fitness

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About the article

Received: 2013-08-05

Accepted: 2013-09-29

Published Online: 2013-10-22

Citation Information: Microbiome Science and Medicine, ISSN (Online) 2084-7653, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/micsm-2013-0002.

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©2013 Versita Sp. z o.o.. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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