Maternal Transmission of Gut Microbes in Lizards
Most studies on maternal transmission of gut microbes have been conducted in mammals. From these studies we know that the birth process is a very important event for microbial acquisition. However, we have very little information for other animal groups. I have recently begun an International NSF postdoc fellowship in Argentina to focus on maternal transmission in a unique group of lizards. I will study lizards of the family Liolaemidae, which contains over 150 species that exhibit variation in their birth strategies; some are egg-laying while others are live-bearing. I will compare transmission routes of gut microbes between live-bearing and egg-laying lizards and the functions of the microbial communities using metagenomics and whole-animal performance assays. Overall, I predict that live birth allows for greater microbial transmission between mothers and offspring, yielding greater microbial performance.