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  1. Abstract

    Selective and neutral forces shape human microbiota assembly in early life. The Tsimane are an indigenous Bolivian population with infant care-associated behaviors predicted to increase mother-infant microbial dispersal. Here, we characterize microbial community assembly in 47 infant-mother pairs from six Tsimane villages, using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing of longitudinal stool and tongue swab samples. We find that infant consumption of dairy products, vegetables, and chicha (a fermented drink inoculated with oral microbes) is associated with stool microbiota composition. In stool and tongue samples, microbes shared between mothers and infants are more abundant than non-shared microbes. Using a neutral model of community assembly, we find that neutral processes alone explain the prevalence of 79% of infant-colonizing microbes, but explain microbial prevalence less well in adults from river villages with more regular access to markets. Our results underscore the importance of neutral forces during microbiota assembly. Changing lifestyle factors may alter traditional modes of microbiota assembly by decreasing the role of neutral processes.