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Title: What is the hologenome concept of evolution?
All multicellular organisms are colonized by microbes, but a gestalt study of the composition of microbiome communities and their influence on the ecology and evolution of their macroscopic hosts has only recently become possible. One approach to thinking about the topic is to view the host–microbiome ecosystem as a “holobiont”. Because natural selection acts on an organism’s realized phenotype, and the phenotype of a holobiont is the result of the integrated activities of both the host and all of its microbiome inhabitants, it is reasonable to think that evolution can act at the level of the holobiont and cause changes in the “hologenome”, or the collective genomic content of all the individual bionts within the holobiont. This relatively simple assertion has nevertheless been controversial within the microbiome community. Here, I provide a review of recent work on the hologenome concept of evolution. I attempt to provide a clear definition of the concept and its implications and to clarify common points of disagreement.  more » « less
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