Congratulations to Ley Lab Group Leader, Nicholas Youngblut, and Postdoc William Walters, who saw their research on the vertebrate microbiome published today in Nature Communications! This publication will be the first of several based on this dataset and is a fantastic outcome for everyone involved.
While most vertebrate microbiome studies focus on captive animals, this work represents the first, large-scale, analysis of the distal gut from mostly wild animals. We show that both host diet and evolutionary history influences microbiome diversity, with each factor explaining different aspects, and identify specific microbial taxa associated with host phylogeny and diet.
By expanding our understanding of the vertebrate intestine beyond captive animals we have furthered our understanding of host-microbe co-evolution and environmental perturbation as drivers of microbial diversity. This has the potential to improve animal conservation and management strategies and allow us to monitor their adaptive potential to environmental change.