Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Cooper RO, Vavra JM, Cressler CE. 2021. Targeted manipulation of abundant and rare taxa in the Daphnia magna microbiota with antibiotics impacts host fitness differentially. mSystems 6:e00916-20. https://


© 2021 Cooper et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.


Host-associated microbes contribute to host fitness, but it is unclear whether these contributions are from rare keystone taxa, numerically abundant taxa, or interactions among community members. Experimental perturbation of the microbiota can highlight functionally important taxa; however, this approach is primarily applied in systems with complex communities where the perturbation affects hundreds of taxa, making it difficult to pinpoint contributions of key community members. Here, we use the ecological model organism Daphnia magna to examine the importance of rare and abundant taxa by perturbing its relatively simple microbiota with targeted antibiotics. We used sublethal antibiotic doses to target either rare or abundant members across two temperatures and then measured key host life history metrics and shifts in microbial community composition. We find that removal of abundant taxa had greater impacts on host fitness than did removal of rare taxa and that the abundances of nontarget taxa were impacted by antibiotic treatment, suggesting that no rare keystone taxa exist in the Daphnia magna microbiota but that microbe-microbe interactions may play a role in host fitness. We also find that microbial community composition was impacted by antibiotics differently across temperatures, indicating that ecological context shapes within-host microbial responses and effects on host fitness.

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