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Host-symbiont population genomics provide insights into partner fidelity, transmission mode and habitat adaptation in deep-sea hydrothermal vent snails

By Corinna Breusing, Maximilian Genetti, Shelbi Russell, Russell Corbett-Detig, Roxanne Beinart

Posted 13 Jul 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.13.452231

Symbiont specificity, both at the phylotype and strain level, can have profound consequences for host ecology and evolution. However, except for insights from a few model symbiosis systems, the degree of partner fidelity and the influence of host versus environmental factors on symbiont composition are still poorly understood. Nutritional symbioses between invertebrate animals and chemosynthetic bacteria at deep-sea hydrothermal vents are examples of relatively selective associations, where hosts affiliate only with particular, environmentally acquired phylotypes of gammaproteobacterial or campylobacterial symbionts. In hydrothermal vent snails of the sister genera Alviniconcha and Ifremeria this phylotype specificity has been shown to play a role in habitat distribution and partitioning among different holobiont species. However, it is currently unknown if fidelity goes beyond species level associations that might influence genetic structuring, connectivity and habitat adaptation of holobiont populations. We used metagenomic analyses to assess sequence variation in hosts and symbionts and identify correlations with geographic and environmental factors. Our analyses indicate that host populations are not differentiated across a ~800 km gradient, while symbiont populations are clearly structured between vent locations due to a combination of neutral and selective processes. Overall, these results suggest that host individuals flexibly associate with locally adapted strains of their specific symbiont phylotypes, which supports a long-standing but untested paradigm of the benefits of horizontal transmission. Strain flexibility in these snails likely enables host populations to exploit a range of habitat conditions, which might favor wide-spread genetic connectivity and ecological resilience unless physical dispersal barriers are present.

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