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Plant-pollinator network architecture does not impact intraspecific microbiome variability.

Molecular Ecology 2024 Februrary 28
Variation in how individuals interact with food resources can directly impact, and be affected by, their microbial interactions due to the potential for transmission. The degree to which this transmission occurs, however, may depend on the structure of forager networks, which determine the community-scale transmission opportunities. In particular, how the community-scale opportunity for transfer balances individual-scale barriers to transmission is unclear. Examining the bee-flower and bee-microbial interactions of over 1000 individual bees, we tested (1) the degree to which individual floral visits predicted microbiome composition and (2) whether plant-bee networks with increased opportunity for microbial transmission homogenized the microbiomes of bees within that network. The pollen community composition carried by bees was associated with microbiome composition at some sites, suggesting that microbial transmission at flowers occurred. Contrary to our predictions, however, microbiome variability did not differ based on transfer opportunity: bee microbiomes in asymmetric networks with high opportunity for microbial transfer were similarly variable compared to microbiomes in networks with more evenly distributed links. These findings suggest that microbial transmission at flowers is frequent enough to be observed at the community level, but that community network structure did not substantially change the dynamics of this transmission, perhaps due to filtering processes in host guts.

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