Evolution of the Gut Microbiota though Adaptive Radiation of Hosts
Depiction of multidirectional selection experiment (by January Weiner)
Comparative studies have shown that host evolutionary history determines gut microbial communities in mammals. However, it is unclear how selection at the host-level may be influencing these relationships. I am collaborating with Dr. Pawel Koteja at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland on an artificial selection experiment. Wild field voles (Myodes glareolus) have been selected for 13 generations for high aerobic capacity, predatory behavior, or tolerance of a low-quality diet [Link]. We have demonstrated that voles selected for the ability to thrive on a high-fiber diet have more diverse cecal microbial communities, even when they are not feeding on high fiber diets [Link].
Avian Gut Microbiota
A majority of the research conducted on the gut microbial communities of has been conducted on mammals. Birds represent a diverse and unique group of vertebrates that remain to be thoroughly studied. I have written a review article on the diversity and function of the avian gut microbiota, and highlighted areas for future research [PDF].
Amphibian Gut Microbiota
Photo by T. Cary
Amphibians represent another understudied group of vertebrates in terms of gut microbiology. We have shown [here] that the microbiota undergoes significant changes between tadpoles and adults. Additionally, we have shown [here] that larval exposure to an environmental pollutant (polychlorinated biphenyl 126) causes persistent alteration of the amphibian microbiota.We have also demonstrated that environmental temperature yields distinct microbial community structures in the tadpole gut [Link].