With a little help from my friends: the roles of microbial symbionts in insect populations and communities.

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Michał Robert Kolasa, Piotr Łukasik


To understand insect abundance, distribution, and dynamics, we need to understand the relevant drivers of their populations and communities. While microbial symbionts are known to affect many aspects of insect biology, research on their ecological and evolutionary importance for wild non-model insects is scarce. We are still far from understanding the spatio-temporal dynamics of symbioses in natural insect communities, symbiont effects on populations or communities, or on insects’ evolutionary responses at different timescales. Also, we can only wonder how these effects change as the anthropogenic effects on ecosystems intensify. However, recent developments in sequencing and bioinformatics permit cost-effective microbial diversity surveys, tracking symbiont transmission, and identification of functions across populations and multi-species communities, helping us address these questions.

In this review, we explore how different functional categories of symbionts can influence insect biology at different levels, how these effects could alter interactions among species, and plausibly affect processes at the level of entire communities. We argue that insect-associated microbes should be considered as likely essential drivers of insect response and adaptation to environmental challenges and opportunities. We also outline the emerging approaches for surveying and characterizing insect-associated microbiota at population and community scales.




Life Sciences


Microbiome, symbiosis, facultative endosymbiont, adaptation, Wolbachia, barcoding, Symbiosis, facultative endosymbiont, adaptation, Wolbachia, barcoding


Published: 2023-10-04 09:29

Last Updated: 2023-10-04 13:29


CC-By Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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