Environmentally acquired microbial symbionts could contribute to host adaptation to local adaptation like vertically transmitted symbionts do. This scenario necessitates symbionts to have different effects in different environments. In Drosophila melanogaster, communities of extracellular bacterial symbionts vary largely among environments, which could be due to variable effects on phenotype. We investigated this idea with four bacterial strains isolated from the feces of a D. melanogaster lab strain, and tested their effects in two environments: the environment of origin (i.e. the laboratory medium) and a new one (i.e. fresh fruit with live yeast). All bacterial effects on larval and adult traits differed among environments, ranging from very beneficial to marginally deleterious. The joint analysis of larval development speed and adult size further suggests bacteria would affect developmental plasticity more than resource acquisition in males. The context-dependent effects of bacteria we observed, and its underlying mechanisms, sheds light on how environmentally acquired symbionts may contribute to host evolution.
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