Microbiomes of microscopic marine invertebrates do not reveal signatures of phylosymbiosis
Animals and microorganisms often establish close ecological relationships. However, much of our knowledge about animal microbiomes comes from two deeply studied groups: vertebrates and arthropods. To understand interactions on a broader scale of diversity, we characterized the bacterial microbiomes of close to 1,000 microscopic marine invertebrates from 21 phyla, spanning most of the remaining tree of metazoans. Samples were collected from five temperate and tropical locations covering three marine habitats (sediment, water column and intertidal macroalgae) and bacterial microbiomes were characterized using 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing. Our data show that, despite their size, these animals harbour bacterial communities that differ from those in the surrounding environment. Distantly related but coexisting invertebrates tend to share many of the same bacteria, suggesting that guilds of microorganisms preferentially associated with animals, but not tied to any specific host lineage, are the main drivers of the ecological relationship. Host identity is a minor factor shaping these microbiomes, which do not show the same correlation with host phylogeny, or ‘phylosymbiosis’, observed in many large animals. Hence, the current debate on the varying strength of phylosymbiosis within selected lineages should be reframed to account for the possibility that such a pattern might be the exception rather than the rule.
This project was funded by the Tula Foundation’s Hakai Institute (P.J.K. and B.S.L.), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC 2019-03896 to B.S.L. and NSERC 2019-03994 to P.J.K.), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (https://doi.org/10.37807/GBMF9201, P.J.K.) and the Canadian Graduate Scholarship programme (N.A.T.I.).
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