Who is the host of the host-associated microbiome? Colony-level dynamics overshadow individual-level characteristics in the fur microbiome of a social mammal, the Egyptian fruit-bat
In the first longitudinal study of bat microbiomes, we find that unlike the pattern described in humans and other mammals, the prominent dynamics in Egyptian fruit bats' fur microbiomes are those of change over time at the level of the colony as a whole. Thus, on average, a pair of fur microbiome samples from different individuals in the same colony collected on the same date are more similar to one another than a pair of samples from the same individual collected at different time points. This pattern suggests that the whole colony may be the appropriate biological unit for understanding some of the roles of the host microbiome in social bats' ecology and evolution. This pattern of synchronized colony changes over time is also reflected in the profile of volatile compounds in the bats' fur, but differs from the more individualized pattern found in the bats' gut microbiome.
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