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Trends Ecol Evol. 2016 Jul;31(7):539-549. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2016.03.006. Epub 2016 Mar 30.

Gut Microbiotas and Host Evolution: Scaling Up Symbiosis.

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University of California, Berkeley, department of Integrative Biology and Graduate Group in Microbiology. Valley Life Sciences Building, room 5155, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA. Electronic address:


Our understanding of species evolution is undergoing restructuring. It is well accepted that host-symbiont coevolution is responsible for fundamental aspects of biology. However, the emerging importance of plant- and animal-associated microbiotas to their hosts suggests a scale of coevolutionary interactions many-fold greater than previously considered. This review builds on current understanding of symbionts and their contributions to host evolution to evaluate recent data demonstrating similar contributions of gut microbiotas. It further considers a multilayered model for microbiota to account for emerging themes in host-microbiota interactions. Drawing on the structure of bacterial genomes, this model distinguishes between a host-adapted core microbiota, and a flexible, environmentally modulated microbial pool, differing in constraints on their maintenance and in their contributions to host adaptation.


coevolution; hologenome; microbiome; microbiota; symbiosis

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