Association of host and microbial species diversity across spatial scales in desert rodent communities

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 24;9(10):e109677. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109677. eCollection 2014.


Relationships between host and microbial diversity have important ecological and applied implications. Theory predicts that these relationships will depend on the spatio-temporal scale of the analysis and the niche breadth of the organisms in question, but representative data on host-microbial community assemblage in nature is lacking. We employed a natural gradient of rodent species richness and quantified bacterial communities in rodent blood at several hierarchical spatial scales to test the hypothesis that associations between host and microbial species diversity will be positive in communities dominated by organisms with broad niches sampled at large scales. Following pyrosequencing of rodent blood samples, bacterial communities were found to be comprised primarily of broad niche lineages. These communities exhibited positive correlations between host diversity, microbial diversity and the likelihood for rare pathogens at the regional scale but not at finer scales. These findings demonstrate how microbial diversity is affected by host diversity at different spatial scales and suggest that the relationships between host diversity and overall disease risk are not always negative, as the dilution hypothesis predicts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecology
  • Environment*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics*
  • Rodentia / genetics
  • Rodentia / microbiology*

Grant support

This study was supported by Marie Curie Career Integration Grant number FP7-293713 and by United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (grant number 2012063). The authors declare that the funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.