Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Animals' microbial communities linked to their behavior

Date:
October 11, 2012
Source:
University of Georgia
Summary:
New research is revealing surprising connections between animal microbiomes -- the communities of microbes that live inside animals' bodies -- and animal behavior. A new article reviews recent developments in this emerging research area and offers questions for future investigation.

Iguana. Green iguanas establish their intestinal microbiomes by feeding first on soil and later on the feces of adult iguanas.
Credit: Sebastian Duda / Fotolia

New research is revealing surprising connections between animal microbiomes -- the communities of microbes that live inside animals' bodies -- and animal behavior, according to a paper by University of Georgia ecologist Vanessa O. Ezenwa and her colleagues. The article, just published in the Perspectives section of the journal Science, reviews recent developments in this emerging research area and offers questions for future investigation.

Related Articles


The paper grew out of a National Science Foundation-sponsored workshop on new ways to approach the study of animal behavior. Ezenwa, an associate professor in the UGA Odum School of Ecology and College of Veterinary Medicine department of infectious diseases, and her coauthors were interested in the relationship between animal behavior and beneficial microbes.

Most research on the interactions between microbes and their animal hosts has focused on pathogens, Ezenwa said. Less is known about beneficial microbes or animal microbiomes, but several recent studies have begun to explore these connections.

"We know that animal behavior plays a critical role in establishing microbiomes," she said. "Once they're established, the microbiomes then influence animal behavior in lots of ways that have far-reaching consequences. That's what we were trying to highlight in this article."

Bumble bees, for example, obtain the microbes they need through social contact with nest mates, including consuming their nest mates' feces-a not uncommon method for animals to acquire microbes. Green iguanas establish their intestinal microbiomes by feeding first on soil and later on the feces of adult iguanas.

"There are a lot of behaviors that animals might have that allow them to get the different microbes they need at different points of their lives," Ezenwa said.

Microbes, in their turn, influence a wide range of animal behaviors, including feeding, mating and predator-prey interactions.

One recent study found that fruit flies prefer to mate with others that have microbiomes most similar to their own. Another found that African malaria mosquitoes were less attracted to humans who had a greater diversity of microbes on their skin, possibly because certain microbes produce chemicals that repel these mosquitoes.

Other studies have focused on understanding the mechanisms by which microbes influence behavior.

"Recent experiments have been able to assess the molecules that are involved in communication between microbes in the gut and the brain of mice, showing that microbes are associated with shifts in things like depression and anxiety in these mice," she said. "There are huge implications in the role these microbes play in regulating neural function."

Ezenwa's own work involves investigating how social behavior and interactions between organisms might increase their likelihood of acquiring parasites and pathogens. She is starting a new project examining animal behavior and microbiomes in relation to infectious disease.

"As in the example of the bumble bees, behavior might control the microbes an animal acquires, and those microbes might then influence the animal's vulnerability to pathogens," she said.

The authors conclude that it will take a combination of molecular and experimental approaches to answer questions about the complex interactions between microbiomes and animal behaviors.

"This is a new, emerging topic that's worthy of much more investigation," Ezenwa said.

The article's coauthors are Nicole M. Gerardo of Emory University; David W. Inouye of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory and the University of Maryland; Monica Medina of the University of California, Merced; and Joao B. Xavier of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Georgia. The original article was written by Beth Gavrilles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. V. O. Ezenwa, N. M. Gerardo, D. W. Inouye, M. Medina, J. B. Xavier. Animal Behavior and the Microbiome. Science, 2012; 338 (6104): 198 DOI: 10.1126/science.1227412

Cite This Page:

University of Georgia. "Animals' microbial communities linked to their behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011162152.htm>.
University of Georgia. (2012, October 11). Animals' microbial communities linked to their behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011162152.htm
University of Georgia. "Animals' microbial communities linked to their behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011162152.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How To: Mixed Green Salad Topped With Camembert Cheese

How To: Mixed Green Salad Topped With Camembert Cheese

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) Learn how to make a mixed green salad topped with a pan-seared camembert cheese in only a minute! Music: Courtesy of Audio Network. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) Scientists are preparing a group of water fleas for a unique voyage into space. The aquatic crustaceans, known as Daphnia, can be used as a miniature model for biomedical research, and their reproductive and swimming behaviour will be tested for signs of stress while on board the International Space Station. Jim Drury went to meet the team. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Husky Puppy Plays With Ferret

Husky Puppy Plays With Ferret

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) It looks like this 2-month-old Husky puppy and the family ferret are going to be the best of friends. Look at how much fun they&apos;re having together! Credit to &apos;Vira&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Model Flying, Walking Drone After Vampire Bats

Scientists Model Flying, Walking Drone After Vampire Bats

Buzz60 (Jan. 26, 2015) Swiss scientists build a new drone that can both fly and walk, modeling it after the movements of common vampire bats. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins