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Even the smallest marine invertebrates — some barely larger than single-celled protists — are home to distinct and diverse microbial communities, or microbiomes, according to new research from University of British Columbia (UBC) biologists.

The study underscores that a vast diversity of animals have microbiomes, just as humans do. But more surprisingly, there’s little correlation between how closely related most animals are and how similar their microbiomes are — something widely assumed to be true based on the study of humans, larger mammals, and insects.

“This says a lot about how microbiomes originated and how they evolve today,” says UBC evolutionary microbiologist Dr. Patrick Keeling, does cetirizine 10 mg make you sleepy senior author of the paper published today in Nature Microbiology.

“People might intuitively think the purpose of a microbiome is to be of benefit to the host animal, and that they co-evolve together. But the bacteria could care less about helping the animal host — they have their own agenda.”

“Most animals harbour a community of bacteria that are simply good at living in animals. From this ‘professional guild’ of animal specialists likely evolved the more elaborate, co-evolving microbiomes that are well studied in humans and insects. But as we looked at a broader set of smaller marine animals, it became clear that the microbiomes of bigger creatures are likely exceptions, not the rule.”

The team found the microbiomes of the tiny creatures differ from the microbes living in the surrounding environment, and often differed from the microbiome of even closely related invertebrates.

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