Natural experiments and long-term monitoring are critical to understand and predict marine host-microbe ecology and evolution

Matthieu Leray, Laetitia G.E. Wilkins, Amy Apprill, Holly M. Bik, Friederike Clever, Sean R. Connolly, Marina E. De Leon, J. Emmett Duffy, Leïla Ezzat, Sarah Gignoux-Wolfsohn, Edward Allen Herre, Jonathan Z. Kaye, David I. Kline, Jordan G. Kueneman, Melissa K. McCormick, W. Owen McMillan, Aaron O'Dea, Tiago J. Pereira, Jillian M. Petersen, Daniel F. PetticordMark E. Torchin, Rebecca Vega Thurber, Elin Videvall, William T. Wcislo, Benedict Yuen, Jonathan A. Eisen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Marine multicellular organisms host a diverse collection of bacteria, archaea, microbial eukaryotes, and viruses that form their microbiome. Such host-associated microbes can significantly influence the host's physiological capacities; however, the identity and functional role(s) of key members of the microbiome ("core microbiome") in most marine hosts coexisting in natural settings remain obscure. Also unclear is how dynamic interactions between hosts and the immense standing pool of microbial genetic variation will affect marine ecosystems' capacity to adjust to environmental changes. Here, we argue that significantly advancing our understanding of how host-associated microbes shape marine hosts' plastic and adaptive responses to environmental change requires (i) recognizing that individual host-microbe systems do not exist in an ecological or evolutionary vacuum and (ii) expanding the field toward long-term, multidisciplinary research on entire communities of hosts and microbes. Natural experiments, such as time-calibrated geological events associated with well-characterized environmental gradients, provide unique ecological and evolutionary contexts to address this challenge. We focus here particularly on mutualistic interactions between hosts and microbes, but note that many of the same lessons andAU : Anabbreviationlisthasbeen compiled for thoseused in themaintext:approaches would apply to other types of interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere3001322
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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