Half the drugs in use damage gut bacteria, says new study
"What that means is that, while some animals seem to have very stable relationships with their microbiomes, with similar bacterial communities persisting across millions of years, others appear to have much more dynamic relationships," said co-first author Jon Sanders, PhD, a former postdoctoral fellow in the UC San Diego lab of co-senior author Rob Knight, PhD.
"Most surprisingly, powered flight seems to be associated with that lack of stability. Bats and birds both seem to have independently ended up with gut microbiomes that don't seem to follow the hosts' evolutionary relationships."
The variability across related species that share similar diets indicates that, at least in birds and bats, a specific microbial balance may not be so critical for supporting normal digestion.
This means that the evolutionary requirements of adopting flight may be having direct, profound effects on the microbiome, and raises questions about what other kinds of evolutionary pressures could be influencing microbial communities.
"If you're carrying a lot of bacteria in your gut, it can be pretty heavy and may take resources away from you," said Holly Lutz, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine and research associate at Chicago's Field Museum.
"So if you're an animal that has really high energetic demands, say because you're flying, you may not be able to afford to carry all those bacteria around, and you may not be able to afford to feed them or deal with them."
The researchers see this data set as a new opportunity to help inform future research on the evolution of microbiomes and their importance for different species.
"As humans, we've always thought that we're very special," said Song. "And we might be, but we do live in a world that's much older than we are. This work helps us better understand the evolution and ecology of host-microbe relationships, and I think will help us better understand ourselves."
"This study tells us a lot about large-scale patterns of evolution in the vertebrate gut, but there is still much more to do," said Knight, professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Jacobs School of Engineering and director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation.
"We need to perform functional studies with metagenomics and metabolomics, and understand microbes in other parts of the body, how they change during development, and how they interact with environmental microbes in both the wild and in captivity to impact animal health. Understanding these principles in thousands of other species will help us understand our own." Source:
University of California - San Diego Journal reference:
Song, S. J. et al . (2020) Comparative Analyses of Vertebrate Gut Microbiomes Reveal Convergence between Birds and Bats. mBio. doi.
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