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Gut Microbes Can Split a Species

timothy posted about a year ago | from the it's-not-you-it's-not-me-it's-actually-them dept.

Science 68

sciencehabit writes "The community of microbes in an animal's gut may be enough to turn the creature into a different species. Species usually split when their members become so genetically distinct — usually by living in separate environments that cause them to evolve different adaptations (think finches on different islands) — that they can no longer successfully breed with each other. Now researchers have shown that a couple groups of wasps have become new species not because their DNA has changed, but because the bacteria in their guts have changed — the first example of this type of speciation."

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meaning (1)

mapkinase (958129) | about a year ago | (#44335917)

"Don't breed" means "don't breed normally". In the absence of better mates they will breed like rabbits.

Re:meaning (1)

ozydingo (922211) | about a year ago | (#44335991)

TFA:

but when either [of the other two species] mates with N. vitripennis, almost all male larvae in the second generation die.

Not quite the picture I have in mind for rabbits.

Re:meaning (1)

mapkinase (958129) | about a year ago | (#44336029)

"Almost"

You know what happens when those that do not die survive and go beyond next generation?

Re:meaning (1)

ozydingo (922211) | about a year ago | (#44336077)

Why, no, why don't you enlighten me?

Anyway, I don't know if there's the data to say that the survivors have a specific genetic trait that allowed for their survival, or if they just got lucky due to environmental factors, so as of yet I'm not sure it could be said if the population would then take off or continue to sputter. Do you know differently?

Re:meaning (1)

ozydingo (922211) | about a year ago | (#44336081)

(Oh, and, IANAB, which if it isn't already will become plainly obvious if I keep talking any more)

Re:meaning (1)

Konster (252488) | about a year ago | (#44337121)

Jurassic park + Godzilla = Bad things happen.

Very. Bad. Things.

Re:meaning (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year ago | (#44342691)

Pacific Rim?

Re:meaning (1)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year ago | (#44336035)

You know, if I was a wasp growing up, I could at least have done something when all the girls said "I hate your guts".

Re:meaning (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336123)

In Dubai you could rape them and then have them arrested.

Re:meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44337113)

Actually, it was more likely than not your stinginess that turned them off, but admitting that would have seemed greedy.

Re:meaning (1)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year ago | (#44339613)

That stung me bad.

Re:meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336003)

"Don't breed" means "don't breed normally". In the absence of better mates they will breed like rabbits.

It's not even "in the presence of better mates", it's "in the presence of more friendly bacteria".

when they raised all three species of Nasonia without gut microbes—by rearing them on sterile food—almost all the second generation offspring of matings between N. vitripennis and N. giraulti wasps survived. And when the scientists reintroduced bacteria into the germ-free wasps, most of their second-generation offspring died, the duo report online today in Science.

So when they create certain hybrid combinations the offspring apparently become very dependent on the species of bacteria in the gut. Oddly earlier in the article it says that it's the males which tend to die, so I'm assuming the females survive but it doesn't say whether or not they can have viable offspring of their own. So what's so different about the sex chromosomes of the of the wasps? Does N. vitripennis have a faulty gene on the X chromosome which is compensated for in their Y, but which isn't corrected by the Y of another species? How do the other species cope with this apparently defective Y, do they just have more friendly flora? And which sex chromosome genes interact with gut flora? Can gut flora of a different species correct the flaw?

It certainly makes the whole "Different species can't interbreed" thing a bit more complicated, but then that already had problems anyway.

Re:meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336019)

Actually, scrap a lot of that speculation, there's nothing to say that the X has to come from vitripennis. Derp.

So what could make survival against microorganisms dependent on having both chromosomes from the same species? Is part of the immune system spread across both sex chromosomes, and it doesn't work properly with the equivalents from a different species?

Re:meaning (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#44336049)

I don't think sex determination in hymenoptera works the same way as in mammals. Their genetics is a little weird.

Samantha Wright would know I'm sure, but she seems to be absent at the moment.

Re:meaning (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44336175)

Yes, I wish she would show up in more stories about biology. Surely there are more biologists here, though.

Re:meaning (2)

tylikcat (1578365) | about a year ago | (#44336207)

So, I guess I am a biologist, for what that's worth, though I usually hang out in the neuroethology / biomech side of things. However, back from the days when I thought I was going to be a statistical geneticist* I seem to recall that hymenoptera are haploid/diploid, which is to say that males only have a single set of chromosomes, whereas females have two.

Which leaves me a little confused to what exactly they did, as haploid offspring usually only have a single parent... (And something is totally messed up with my Science subscription, and I just spent half an hour futzing with it, even though I can just log in with my institutional subscription.) Ah, yes. Okay, they crossed the species, producing diploid females, and then the males in question were the F2 haploids. I feel better now. I mean, it kind of had to be that, but...

As a general note, the genetics of sex determination varies a lot. We tend to talk about sex determination in humans because, well, we're humans. But you *really* don't want to generalize. (And, of course, as you get to invertebrates things get particularly crazy. I work with hermaphroditic slugs, for instance...)

* I would still love to be a statistical geneticist, I'm just somewhat easily lead if people wave cool research in front of my face. Ooh! Protein folding and native state mechanics! Ooh! Biomechanics and motor control!

Re:meaning (4, Funny)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#44336391)

I work with hermaphroditic slugs, for instance. ..)

That's not a nice thing to call your coworkers. I'm sure they are very hard working people. And it's very rude nowadays to call their sexuality into question. Sure, the guys may be a little fem, and the women may be butch, but they still have feelings, you insensitive clod.

And what's with the Picasso smiley, with both eyes on the same side of the face?

Re:meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343329)

Okay, that's funny. I'm using cubist emoticons from now on. ..| (that's for "cubist meh")

Re:meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44345185)

really? And you all taken into account cannibally and coprophagy in experiments? Do not tell me I did not warn you... it is so hidden and personal secret that you would not know who has been experimenting on your samples before-hand... I do have a few texts about the problem... :(

Sex determination (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44336493)

Do we even know that these wasps have their sex determined by genetics? Certainly the whole XX vs XY is how humans do it, and I think most (all?) mammals follow the same pattern. But I believe in crocodiles it's determined by the gestation temperature of the eggs - those on the outside of mound become male while those in the center become female (or is it the other way around? I forget). And as we wander even further across the tree of life it seems reasonable to assume that the way our species does things is going to become increasingly irrelevant. Certainly by the time we get to slime molds all bets are off (five genders, and any two different ones can reproduce)

Re:meaning (3, Informative)

tylikcat (1578365) | about a year ago | (#44336241)

The whole idea of a species barrier is not actually that well defined in biology. It gets tossed around a lot, but there is not a hard and fast set of agreed upond definitions of what it means. If you have critters that can breed and produce viable offspring, but under normal circumstances will not because of timing or other issues, are they separate species? Or, for another instance, there are these lizards where successive groups of them occupy a more or less crescent shaped space. Each group can breed with the ones nearest it, but the ones at each end of the crescent can't breed with eachother.

Even if it's ill defined, it's a hard concept to entirely escape from, because breeding pools, and diversity both within and between different breeding pools are pretty hard to get away from. But in the community I don't see people getting particularly excited about the term species nearly as much as I see us getting excited about what is actually going on on the ground.

Re:meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44347585)

You want to foment Miscegenation between members of the Human species and Africans or Indians, so you see the definition of species as undefined. Normal circumstances is circumstances so if they do not procreate, they do not, even if some couples out of the sum of populations do. Offspring have to be fitter to supersede either species and this is not true of Mulatos as we know, so overall they do not count. The conditions for Speciation hold as definition of species because of higher order DNA coding interactions. - djb

Nothing new here. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44335955)

"I hate your guts" has always been a contraindication for breeding.

Re:Nothing new here. (5, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#44336161)

"I hate your guts" is just a polite way of saying, "You have extraordinarily odorous flatulence."

That's why dogs sniff each others' butts, to see if they are compatible as mates. Humans could learn from dogs, and instead of a quick chat during speed dating, just take a quick whiff of each others' butts.

That's why evolution placed the sexual organs so close to the anal orifice. You're forced to check gut bacteria compatibility, before you mate.

Unless you're prude, and just do missionary in the dark, with your clothes on.

Re:Nothing new here. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44336333)

Oh thanks for that really great advice...

Anyone knows a good lawyer for a sexual harassment suit?

Re:Nothing new here. (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#44336407)

Yes, I just sniffed one's butt in the elevator at the courthouse yesterday, and I have her name on the police report. I'll get it for you once my bail is paid.

Does anyone know a good bailbondsman?

Re:Nothing new here. (3, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year ago | (#44336335)

Dogs sniff each other's butts because that's where the most powerful scent glands are (scent that gets left with excrement), and they can tell who has been pooping where. It's the canine version of license plate scanners.

Re:Nothing new here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336627)

The NSA has been using this for years to track a--holes.

Re:Nothing new here. (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year ago | (#44342739)

So that's what the actors and actresses who engage in fellatio and cunnilingus on camera are doing for money. And I though all those movies had no scientific merit. Now I can proudly say they are forced to check gut bacteria compatibility, before they mate.

Re:Nothing new here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343317)

that is not true.
When dogs used to throw fancy dances it was etiquette to check your arse hole at the door.
One night a terrible fire broke out and everyone just grabbed any hole on the way out.
Ever since they have been looking for their own..

Now to be serious. They detect ovulation by sweet estrogen smells. A bull sniffs a cow when she pees. If he likes it he curls his lip. Then he gets serious about her.

Show of hands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44335975)

Can we split a species by show of hands? You, out of the gene pool!

Big Deal (2)

oldhack (1037484) | about a year ago | (#44335977)

So, gut bacteria can make mating incompatible. What's new?

It's an artificial problem for the concept of "species", an outdated notion. Get it together, biologists.

Re:Big Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44345827)

So, gut bacteria can make mating incompatible. What's new? It's an artificial problem for the concept of "species", an outdated notion. Get it together, biologists.

You already knew this? Why didn't you publish a paper showing it to everyone? If you're so fucking smart, get off the armchair and do some science.

mistake in title (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44335997)

a species ??

Isn't plural without preposition?

"Gut Microbes Can Split Species"

A cutter can split cables
A cutter can split a cables

just sayin'

Re:mistake in title (1)

ozydingo (922211) | about a year ago | (#44336007)

It's singular [merriam-webster.com] .

Re:mistake in title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336011)

Species is both singular and plural, either usage in the title is correct.

Re:mistake in title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336455)

The male of the specie Homo sapien likes displaying his bicep and tricep while watching a TV serie.

Self-improvement requires guts? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44336023)

Well, color me surprised!

Re:Self-improvement requires guts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336265)

Well, color me surprised!

You should be surprised, I think we've just discovered where God was hiding.

Re:Self-improvement requires guts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336379)

"You should be surprised, I think we've just discovered where God was hiding."

In wasp fecal matter? I'm not a christian but I don't think that's what they have in mind with the "god is everywhere" bit.

Inability to breed is NOT a qualification (2)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | about a year ago | (#44336105)

Inability to breed is not a qualification for a species boundary.

Re:Inability to breed is NOT a qualification (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336149)

It is if it is only with another bunch of creatures that were all similar to you that you can no longer procreate with, and the only one that is similar to you will happily bang you rotten and spit out all the be-wasps ever.

Not to mention if their sexual organs remain completely unchanged. Which they are in this.

Re:Inability to breed is NOT a qualification (1)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | about a year ago | (#44336247)

My point is that two separate species (and even Genus) can be sexually compatible and the summary is implying that it is part of the requirements for determining species boundaries.

Re:Inability to breed is NOT a qualification (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44336417)

My point is that two separate species (and even Genus) can be sexually compatible and the summary is implying that it is part of the requirements for determining species boundaries.

Your point is wrong, because it is part of what's used to determine what is and what isn't the same species. If you want to argue that the definition of species is outdated and being eroded, that's fine.

MEN IN BLACK will be a reality very soon (1)

nyatty (1869046) | about a year ago | (#44336133)

MEN IN BLACK will be a reality very soon.

What makes a human (3, Interesting)

manu0601 (2221348) | about a year ago | (#44336169)

Gut microbes influence is not surprising when you consider a human being is made more of gut microbes (10^14) than human cells (10^13). We even saw recently a paper about horizontal gene transfers between gut microbes and human cells [bytesizebio.net] , so perhaps we will have to consider a human being is mostly made of its guts microbes.

We're not independent from the biosphere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336215)

Indeed. Mankind has a propensity to consider itself outside of and beyond nature, but nothing could be further from the truth.

It's not only the huge population of gut bacteria that are making the news these days, but our entire bodies being pervaded by micro-organisms, most of them in symbiosis with us, some unfriendly and embroiled in the perpetual battleground of our cells and circulatory systems.

It's entirely correct to consider homo sapiens (and all higher order animals) as mobile parts of the biosphere. Our thoughts may be independent of it, but our bodies are not.

And that's the main reason why we need to look after the planet. When the biosphere dies, we die. Monsanto may not care, but those who want their descendents to live should.

Re:We're not independent from the biosphere (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about a year ago | (#44339695)

It's entirely correct to consider homo sapiens (and all higher order animals) as mobile parts of the biosphere. Our thoughts may be independent of it, but our bodies are not.

Even our thoughts... Some microbes influence our mind. Take toxoplasmosis, for instance, which is known to have mind controlling features.

Re:We're not independent from the biosphere (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year ago | (#44342773)

At least that explains the riots rationally.

Re:What makes a human (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#44336887)

And also reinforces the importance of not abusing antibiotics, breastfeeding babies [sciencedaily.com] , and your appendix [dukehealth.org]

Re:What makes a human (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#44340289)

Saw a biologist call humans "bacterial colonies with feet" one time. Seems fitting in this context.

Beyond the pond (3, Funny)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year ago | (#44336245)

So McDonalds is the reason why Americans are becoming a different species?

You Are What You Eat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336483)

Well, you know what they say...

Re:Beyond the pond (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44336673)

gumbo more likely.

after all, mcd you can get anywhere(and thank god for that so you can get something to eat in a pinch somewhere where you can only find fried bugs otherwise)

Re:Beyond the pond (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | about a year ago | (#44339587)

Yep. I had to go to Italy once for a business trip, at first I was all excited for Italian food. But it's not even as good as what you'd get at Olive Garden, and I got sooo sick of it every day. By the end I was pretty much living off Big Macs.

Re:Beyond the pond (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#44340331)

The last time that I was in McDonalds was actually in Italy, although for an entirely different reason. I'm married to a Peruvian, and they pretty much live on potatoes. Since the Italians don't eat potatoes (gnocchi don't count) after ten days she was rather distraught. We went to McDonalds, had a whole bunch of french fries, and then everything was fine again.

We actually loved the food in Italy (except for the lack of potatoes, of course). Lots of starches, lots of veggies, plenty of fish, light on the meat. Cheeses, mushrooms, wonderful sausages, plenty of herbs and spices, what's not to like? Of course we tend to find some hole-in-the-wall full of locals, stay in cheap hotels, and ignore guidebooks, so we're not average tourists.

Re:Beyond the pond (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44337325)

Also, Walmart. See you at the Walmart-McDonalds wedding!

Re:Beyond the pond (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44367259)

Imbecility? McDonalds is cannibally and coprophagy under Others s discretion and your wallet (shhh, secret).

They're NOT a new species... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336555)

Golly... if that's true then Catholics are a different "species" than other people because they have more offspring due to their inability to use birth control.

It's JUST ANOTHER ENVIRONMENTAL FACTOR THAT INFLUENCES EVOLUTION.

I would've thought that the fact that once they removed the environmental factors preventing successful progeny that breeding was SUCCESSFUL would've been an obvious point... but noooo... it's "a whole new way of thinking about species".

Bollocks.

Darwin's Radio (1)

jabberw0k (62554) | about a year ago | (#44336583)

Greg Bear postulated that speciation might occur by more than just random mutations -- Darwin's Radio [wikipedia.org] (1999) might be worth a read.

Lynn Margulis - Symbiogenesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44336599)

I suspect that Dr. Margulis would disagree about this being the first (even known) example. IIRC, she referred to this happening in papers about SET.

Reminds me of Wolbachia (3, Interesting)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about a year ago | (#44337287)

Wolbachia is a bacterial genus believed to infect up to ~90% of all insect species. It spreads rapidly through populations by allowing infected females to breed with any individual while infected males can only breed with infected females (the bacteria is passed on mother-to-child). Furthermore, many species actually depend on Wolbachia to become sexually viable, and in a few the bacteria actually induce the insects to undergo parthenogenesis (reproduction with females only).

Even now, Wolbachia is migrating north through California's fruit fly population. Last year I heard it had reached the Sacramento area.

Re:Reminds me of Wolbachia (1)

hawk (1151) | about a year ago | (#44351449)

So with any luck, it will stop the California Legislature from breeding?

Great news for the other 49 states! :)

hawk

Re:Reminds me of Wolbachia (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about a year ago | (#44352497)

Sorry to disappoint, but all it might do is stop them from getting West Nile virus.

Good news, everyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44337445)

Great. That's all we need--more kinds of wasps.

And it probably accounts for (1)

kilodelta (843627) | about a year ago | (#44337621)

The difference between Chimpanzees, Bobobos and Humans. We all share a common ancestor. And in the case of the Bonobos we know how they were separated from the Chimp group.

glasscock? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44340437)

vitri=glass
penis=penis
vitripenis=glasscock

Re:glasscock? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44342789)

vitri=glass
penis=penis
vitripenis=glasscock

otherwise known as dildo

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