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Title: Generalizing game-changing species across microbial communities

Microbes form multispecies communities that play essential roles in our environment and health. Not surprisingly, there is an increasing need for understanding if certain invader species will modify a given microbial community, producing either a desired or undesired change in the observed collection of resident species. However, the complex interactions that species can establish between each other and the diverse external factors underlying their dynamics have made constructing such understanding context-specific. Here we integrate tractable theoretical systems with tractable experimental systems to find general conditions under which non-resident species can change the collection of resident communities—game-changing species. We show that non-resident colonizers are more likely to be game-changers than transients, whereas game-changers are more likely to suppress than to promote resident species. Importantly, we find general heuristic rules for game-changers under controlled environments by integrating mutual invasibility theory with in vitro experimental systems, and general heuristic rules under changing environments by integrating structuralist theory with in vivo experimental systems. Despite the strong context-dependency of microbial communities, our work shows that under an appropriate integration of tractable theoretical and experimental systems, it is possible to unveil regularities that can then be potentially extended to understand the behavior of complex natural communities.

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Oxford University Press
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ISME Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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