Many animals live in intimate associations with a species-rich microbiome. A key factor in maintaining these beneficial associations is fidelity, defined as the stability of associations between hosts and their microbiota over multiple host generations. Fidelity has been well studied in terrestrial hosts, particularly insects, over longer macroevolutionary time. In contrast, little is known about fidelity in marine animals with species-rich microbiomes at short microevolutionary time scales, that is at the level of a single host population. Given that natural selection acts most directly on local populations, studies of microevolutionary partner fidelity are important for revealing the ecological and evolutionary processes that drive intimate beneficial associations within animal species.
In this study on the obligate symbiosis between the gutless marine annelid
We hypothesize that variable degrees of fidelity are advantageous for