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ISME J. 2014 Feb;8(2):469-77. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.157. Epub 2013 Sep 12.

Kin recognition in Drosophila: the importance of ecology and gut microbiota.

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Department Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour, Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.


The animal gut commonly contains a large reservoir of symbiotic microbes. Although these microbes have obvious functions in digestion and immune defence, gut microbes can also affect behaviour. Here, we explore whether gut microbiota has a role in kin recognition. We assessed whether relatedness, familiarity and food eaten during development altered copulation investment in three species of Drosophila with diverse ecologies. We found that a monandrous species exhibited true kin recognition, whereas familiarity determined kin recognition in a species living in dense aggregations. Finally, in a food generalist species, food eaten during development masked kin recognition. The effect of food type on copulation duration, in addition to the removal of this effect via antibiotic treatment, suggests the influence of bacteria associated with the gut. Our results provide the first evidence that varied ecologically determined mechanisms of kin recognition occur in Drosophila, and that gut bacteria are likely to have a key role in these mechanisms.

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