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Gut Microbes Can Split a Species 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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Gut Microbes Can Split a Species

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

    • 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.

      • "Almost"

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

        • 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?

          • (Oh, and, IANAB, which if it isn't already will become plainly obvious if I keep talking any more)
        • by Konster ( 252488 )

          Jurassic park + Godzilla = Bad things happen.

          Very. Bad. Things.

      • by Cryacin ( 657549 )
        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 (Score:4, Informative)

      by tylikcat ( 1578365 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @08:21AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:01AM (#44335955)

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

    • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @07:39AM (#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.

      • Oh thanks for that really great advice...

        Anyone knows a good lawyer for a sexual harassment suit?

        • 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?

      • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @08:58AM (#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.
      • 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.

  • 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.

  • Well, color me surprised!
  • by modmans2ndcoming ( 929661 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @07:05AM (#44336105)

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

  • MEN IN BLACK will be a reality very soon.
  • What makes a human (Score:4, Interesting)

    by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @07:47AM (#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 [], so perhaps we will have to consider a human being is mostly made of its guts microbes.
    • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
      And also reinforces the importance of not abusing antibiotics, breastfeeding babies [], and your appendix []
    • by cusco ( 717999 )
      Saw a biologist call humans "bacterial colonies with feet" one time. Seems fitting in this context.
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @08:23AM (#44336245)
    So McDonalds is the reason why Americans are becoming a different species?
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      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)

      • 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.

        • by cusco ( 717999 )
          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
  • Greg Bear postulated that speciation might occur by more than just random mutations -- Darwin's Radio [] (1999) might be worth a read.
  • by reve_etrange ( 2377702 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @01:22PM (#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.

    • by hawk ( 1151 )

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

      Great news for the other 49 states! :)


  • 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.

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.