Background: To understand the patterns of biodiversity it is important to consider symbiotic interactions as they can shape animal evolution. In several ant genera symbiotic interactions with microbial communities have been shown to have profound impacts for the host. For example, we know that for Camponotini the gut community can upgrade the host's diet and is shaped by development and colony interactions. However, what is true for one ant group may not be true for another. For the microbial communities that have been examined across ants we see variation in the diversity, host factors that structure these communities, and the function these microbes provide for the host. In the herbivorous turtle ants (Cephalotes) their stable symbiotic interactions with gut bacteria have persisted for 50 million years with the gut bacteria synthesizing essential amino acids that are used by the host. Although we know the function for some of these turtle ant-associated bacteria there are still many open questions.Results: In the present study we examined microbial community diversity (16S rRNA and 18S rRNA amplicons) of more than 75 species of turtle ants across different geographic locations and in the context of the host's phylogenetic history. Our results show (1) that belonging to a certain species and biogeographic regions are relevant to structuring the microbial community of turtle ants; (2) both bacterial and eukaryotic communities demonstrated correlations and cooccurrence within the ant host; (3) within the core bacterial community, Burkholderiaceae bacterial lineage were the only group that showed strong patterns of codiversification with the host, which is remarkable since the core bacterial community is stable and persistent.Conclusions: We concluded that for the turtle ants there is a diverse and evolutionarily stable core bacterial community, which leads to interesting questions about what microbial or host factors influence when these partner histories become evolutionarily intertwined.
Ramalho, M. O., & Moreau, C. S. (2023). Untangling the complex interactions between turtle ants and their microbial partners. Animal Microbiome, 5(1), 1-16. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s42523-022-00223-7