Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New studies reveal connections between animals’ microbial communities and behavior

12.10.2012
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.
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. The full article is available at http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6104/198.full?sid=45ad6fa3-c906-4289-9bdb-4da1815ab59a.

Vanessa O. Ezenwa | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uga.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>