Processes shaping gut microbiota diversity in allopatric populations of the endemic lizardPodarcis lilfordifrom Menorcan islets (Balearic Islands)

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Compositional variation of the gut microbiota across host allopatric populations can reflect both adaptation and stochasticity since the time of separation. Major factors shaping this variation include the host phylogeographic and demographic history, the microbiota inheritance, environmental inputs and dispersal of bacteria. Here we explored the impact of these factors in driving gut community diversity in seven allopatric populations of the omnivorous lizard Podarcis lilfordi from the Menorcan coastal islets, all descending from an ancestral mainland population. Using 16S rRNA Illumina sequencing, we showed that ‘islet' and ‘age' (time since islet separation from mainland) were the only significant variables in microbial community clustering, suggesting a partial islet-restricted diversification following these lizards phylogeography. Despite a significant variation, islets/populations were characterized by a remarkably low bacterial uniqueness (2.4% of total OTUs) and a minor differential enrichment of taxa, indicating a negligible impact of local inputs and important host common constraints. Overall, the extant pattern of similarity/dissimilarity among islets is compatible with partial retention of the ancestral mainland microbial pool, with differences among islets potentially explained by a differential loss of bacteria following population fragmentation and bottlenecks (i.e. ecological drift). While more quantitative data are needed to validate this hypothesis, this study unveils the importance of considering both neutral and niche-driven processes in driving contemporary patterns of gut metacommunity diversity.

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