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 Physics of bubbles could explain language patterns
25.07.2017 | University of Portsmouth

nachricht Obstructing the ‘inner eye’
07.07.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

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: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Programming cells with computer-like logic

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Identified the component that allows a lethal bacteria to spread resistance to antibiotics

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Malaria Already Endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman Period

27.07.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>