The role of exploitation in the establishment of mutualistic microbial symbioses

Megan E.S. Sorenson, Chris D. Lowe, Ewan John Arrbuthnott Minter, Andrew James Wood, Duncan D. Cameron, Michael Alan Brockhurst

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Evolutionary theory suggests that the conditions required for the establishment of mutualistic symbioses through mutualism alone are highly restrictive, often requiring the evolution of complex stabilising mechanisms. Exploitation, whereby initially the host benefits at the expense of its symbiotic partner and mutual benefits evolve subsequently through trade-offs, offers an arguably simpler route to the establishment of mutualistic symbiosis. In this review, we discuss the theoretical and experimental evidence supporting a role for host exploitation in the establishment and evolution of mutualistic microbial symbioses, including data from both extant and experimentally evolved symbioses. We conclude that exploitation rather than mutualism may often explain the origin of mutualistic microbial symbioses.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfnz148
Number of pages16
JournalFEMS microbiology letters
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2019

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