Microbe soups in social groups: Interaction of social organization and parasite and symbiont diversity

Dr. Sébastien Calvignac-Spencer, Berlin
Prof. Dr. Rolf Daniel, Göttingen
Dr. Christian Roos, Göttingen

Post Doc: Dr. Jan Gogarten


Microbes have shaped the evolution of all animals, including primates. Since transmission of symbionts and pathogens often occurs through conspecifics, it is expected that the social structures developed by primates have also affected their relation to microbes. Most studies have thus far investigated the eco-evolutionary loop linking microbial communities and their host social systems using ecological approaches focused on selected single pathogen/host systems. Here, we propose to adopt an evolutionary perspective and focus on the long-term accumulation of symbionts and pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract. In particular, we hypothesize that social species/species with large social groups are both more likely to maintain pathogens and more likely to recruit symbionts, which should result in larger pathogen communities and stronger codivergence with their symbionts, respectively. To test these predictions, we will characterize the genetic diversity of entire communities of gut microbes and phages (symbionts) and gastrointestinal parasites and eukaryotic viruses (parasites/pathogens) in 5 distinct primate communities, generating microbe diversity, phylogenetic profile and diversification metrics for 20 primate species with contrasted social systems. This study will clarify the long-term species- and group-level effects of sociality on microbial community composition and function. This will provide an essential background to the understanding of the individual-level processes examined by entire research group.