In Focus: Mushegian, A. A., Walser, J. -C., Sullam, K. E., & Ebert, D. (2018). The microbiota of diapause: How host-microbe associations are formed after dormancy in an aquatic crustacean. Journal of Animal Ecology, 87, 400-413. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12709. All animals are colonized by micro-organisms, most of which are benign or beneficial. Where do these micro-organisms come from? Theory predicts that micro-organisms which are transmitted vertically from parent to offspring are especially likely to be beneficial to the host, while horizontally acquired micro-organisms are opportunistic and more variable in their impact on host performance. In this issue, Mushegian et al. () investigate the source of bacteria that are required for the growth and development of Daphnia water fleas to reproductive adults. They find that, although vertically transmitted bacteria can occur in the capsule enclosing the Daphnia eggs, the micro-organisms that promote Daphnia performance are associated with the external surface of the capsule and are of likely environmental origin. This mode of transmission may be adaptive for Daphnia because, linked to the longevity and capacity for long-distance dispersal of these eggs, the environmental circumstances encountered by parent and offspring may be different; with the implication, the parental micro-organisms may not be optimal for the offspring. This study demonstrates that, although some animals require symbioses with specific coevolved, vertically transmitted microbial symbionts, other animals have evolved dependence on taxonomically variable micro-organisms of environmental origin.
© 2018 The Author. Journal of Animal Ecology © 2018 British Ecological Society.